A few weeks ago our paper had pictures of another cycle of famine in Ethiopia and Somalia.
Several years ago, when my husband Vern directed the World Hunger Appeal, I saw first-hand the devastation in those countries and was appalled—hence this poem.
You sit alone in your thoughts / Passive, unsmiling with downcast eyes / Two spindly legs like pipe stems / ending in gnarled toes / Stick out in front of you
A bundle of rags blending into / the dusty earth.
Huddled around you as far as the / eye can see / Are thousands of your kinfolk / A mass of mute, grey/brown humanity / Carbon copies of yourself / Victims in limbo / And the stench of death is everywhere.
Yesterday your hair was plaited into neat braids / And silver shone around your neck / You swept the house / Cared for your family / Washed clothes in the river / Rains came and the harvest was good / Time passed too quickly.
Today your head is shaved smooth / Your silver sold for firewood / Your family is scattered, whereabouts unknown / And the burning sun has dried up the river / The hard, cracked earth yields—nothing / And the clock has stopped.
A fair-skinned volunteer passes / And offers you a plate of thick gruel / “Take and eat” / And a plastic cup of reconstituted milk / “Take and drink” / I see two eyes look upward / It is Eucharist in action.