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
...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: https://www.exchange-for-change.org
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.