Eating From a Spring

by Jimmy Murdoch

After we started fasting

My sister's dad came and dropped off a cake

It was Momma's Birthday

The first hesitation was the longest, not wanting to break something so sacred

This was bigger than hunger

But the pain won over and we all gave in

Momma had the first bite and made us wait ten minutes

Like rolling red through a caution light

It could have been our last

But it was only a fast...

We halfway smiled for surviving

and since God's anger is divine...

We feasted for the apocalypse

Every few hours a piece got amputated

It took us three days

Until it was broken down to icing

Momma started praying

Who the hell would poison a Birthday cake?


God's help and forgiveness follows punishment

Plus he's a jealous one.

So for putting our stomachs first,

He broke us down like verses

We ate ice cubes then slept away the hunger

No words can fill the voids of my sister's disappointment

Everyday her daddy promised to take her out to eat

By his fourth call I knew for sure he was evil

But Momma still schemed, turning survival into a game

teaching her precious four year old daughter how to get mileage out of a meal

"Baby eat some chicken and vegetables first and plenty of rice and bread

And if you can,

put something in some napkins

like a few wings and some cookies for your brother but don't tell nobody it's for us.

Just ask your daddy's girlfriend to put it all in her purse.

BABY MAKE SURE you eat some meat and vegetables first, and some noodles too

the starch...

...Spaghetti is perfect

And MAKE SURE that if your bring anything back they don't know it's for us"

After he never showed, my sister downed a bottle of Robitussin.

Hard water was no longer enough for her.

The ambulance rushed them to a sandwich and some chips

Then Shonta came to get us

She dropped us at the Spring, a battered women's shelter that had fences like a prison.

I remembered having breakfast with a black eye

She moved like silence

Some ghosts are alive while dying

When she walked away from the table,

The that had more types of cereal than any kid could have prayed for...

I had to eat the heart break with a cup of compartmentalization.

Orange juice feels like razor blades

When you cut your throat trying to find the right words to say,

to a wrong world broken beyond your wisdom

It's said after falling through that prism,

You become divided.

Like a man trapped in a boy's body with four eyes and no eyelids

Some things aren't meant for seeing

Some nights were like a museum

When we gathered to eat

The bruised displayed filled the space with stories

And the seasoned greens brought out laughter

when it was discovered that it's not just a black thing.

White women can chew some grease too.

It's amazing what good food can do to an attitude

It ain't chicken noodle soup that's good for the soul...

It's cornbread, fried chicken gizzards and three cheese macaroni

served as a side

Those moments we stood in line, in rows

Everybody holding out a different plate of hope

Some still plotting an escape

Some are going back to him

Some hoping their son's don't turn into their dads

Some don't even bother to hope they just wait on tomorrow

'cause they used their planning up to get through today

For some this was the most they ever ate

We are fortunate to have received this second poem by Jimmy Murdoch.

He writes to us from prison, as a student of the non-profit writing program "Exchange for Change".

"Exchange for Change" teaches writing in prisons and runs letter exchanges between

incarcerated writers and writers on the outside.

"We believe in the value of every voice, and we give our students an opportunity to express themselves without the fear of being stigmatized. When everyone has the ability to listen and be heard, strong and safe communities are formed". - Exchange for Change

To learn more "Exchange for Change", their great work and positive impact, please visit their website:

I extend my deep gratitude to Kathie Klarreich, Executive Director of "Exchange for Change", for her time, enthusiasm and participation in this ongoing project:

We Remember What We ate", and to Jimmy Murdoch for sharing his memories and artistic prowess through his deeply etched, honest, insightful, and poignant poetry.

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Updated: May 4, 2020

Brown Bag Lunches

by Jimmy Murdoch

And for others this would be their last meal in peace.

It's amazing how peanut butter can taste like government sandwiches

And how blood can taste like handcuffs

And dry tears can taste like a reverse cocktail party,

Or shout out holding a mouth hostage

To pour up a puddle of drowned sorrows

Into the back of a cop car.

The future can taste so far away

Funerals taste like birthday cakes

Eclair coffins with sugar flowers,

buried beneath chocolate

Taste like I been eating this way too long..So I just eat my tongue

And suffer in silence And THAT..tastes like survival

Jimmy Murdoch is a student of the non-profit South Florida writing program Exchange for Change. Exchange for Change teaches writing in prisons and facilitates letter exchanges between incarcerated students and writers on the outside. Take a minute and discover the greatly needed, socially conscious, and productive work Exchange for Change is doing:

"We Remember What We Ate" is an ongoing, and growing, project whose purpose is to weave together diverse voices into one unifying and equalizing give us All a platform to share a meaningful memory, to give voice to the voiceless, to participate in dissolving dehumanizing stereotypes and to foster connection through the ancient art of story telling and our shared connection to food.

I would like to send out a huge Thank You to Kathie Klarreich, Executive Director of "Exchange for Change" for choosing to share this project with "Exchange for Change" students and to Jimmy Murdoch for his poem...and to all the writers and stories to come; we look forward to hearing your voices!

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French Toast

by Cher Finver

I’d get a faint whiff of stale cigarettes and Estee Lauder’s Beautiful as she hurried by me in her tattered floor-length bathrobe. She’d run around our modest kitchen, gathering eggs and cinnamon, cussing under her breathe when a piece of bread would start burning or our nearly expired milk was running low. Mom’s dark hair matched the circles under her eyes most weekend mornings, be it late weekend morning as I rarely saw her before eleven.

I grew up to be a morning person because I had to be the morning person. I’d turn on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and attend to my brother, two years my junior. We knew to play quietly in our room, hoping the first parental voice we heard was that of our mother. That meant fewer egg shells to walk on than if our stepdad awoke first. His mood was based on cocaine, alcohol, and if he had a job at the time. At least I could say Mom worked steadily while also battling the aforementioned vices.

A few Sunday mornings a year, Mom would crawl out of bed at an acceptable breakfast time and make French toast. I grew up to realize it was nothing fancy, just the basics, but I can still picture her in the kitchen as my brother and I were waiting anxiously at the table, our stomachs growling for something other than generic cereal and our hearts hungry for our mother’s attention. The warm syrup and butter always served as an after-thought, felt like a hug.

I ended up trying to fill the void left by my mother and others of significance with food. Learning to eat right, exercise, and many years of therapy have led me to the good place I am in now, emotionally and physically. I gave up hope long ago that my mother will ever apologize for past mistakes and this does not excuse other behaviors. But, as a mom myself for nineteen years now, I know some days all you can do is muster up a simple meal. Mom, know that I’ll always remember your French toast and the love I felt when you made it for me. Any memory I have of you just trying is one I can look back on now with some degree of appreciation.

Bio: Cher Finver is a writer and the author of But You Look So Good and Other Lies. She resides in Las Vegas, Nevada with her husband, daughter, and their three dogs.

Thank you Cher, your story reminds us to find the love, wrap it in understanding, gratitude and forgiveness, hold it close, and write it into our life stories and grow our hearts.

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