Poem for a Hungry World

My thoughts today for this anxiety-producing world…

“Fading Away” ©2004 Maggie Taylor

by the incomparable Maggie Taylor

for Naomi Shihab Nye

We send and send poems, but they never arrive.
23 years, your son already in college.
What happens to all the words along the way?

“Return to Sender,” say the poems.
The postman picks them up, and only smiles.
Soon, he knows, all of the words will merge,

language turning from English to Elliptical, from Farsi to Frenetic,
from Hebrew to Ham-N-Cheese, from Hungarian to Hungry-Never-More.
This way, all of the words will have real meaning.

We send and send poems,
but the mailmen are all at lunch, eating Ham-N-Cheese.
When they Finnish, the Swedes have hidden their money

in secret accounts, Hungary for the Czechs to release
the artwork the Nazi’s confiscated. The Poles have closed
the voting booths, while Lech Walesa Skypes his intention

to play himself in Andrzej Wajda’s, “Man of Iron.” The Czechs
are in turmoil, as Vaclav Havel writes another play. He writes
and writes, but the words are never delivered,

the hearts of the people of the world no longer heard.
We send and send poems
but when the postman sees they’re addressed to The New Yorker

he laughs and throws them away, saving us the resident
embarrassment and humiliation. (What were we thinking?)
What happens to all the words after we say them? After we send them?

The postman all refuse their task — after that day
of the Ham-N-Cheese,
when they rose from their chair, all the poems in their satchels

taking to the air like helium,
the words in their parcels feeling misunderstood,
rose like butterflies, took matter, as it were,

into their own hands.
No longer would they be prisoners,
pressed and enveloped.

“Look!” They say, “What humankind has done to us!
The mangling! The abuses!”

Soon, poems and postmen fill the skies.
They rise so high, it is difficult to tell a postman
from a hungry word.

Hunger is the word of the hour in Haiti, where young boys
mistake the vision for Popcorn and take to their

Same in Israel, Palestine, Ghana, Afghanistan,
Uzbekistan, Iran, Pakistan and Massapequa.
Soon postmen are falling from the skies,

while words escape, lithe, elliptical.
The postmen, Hungry-Never-More, (due to the
Ham-N-Cheese) bounce home unharmed like rubber balls.

But then, the real crisis emerge.
“The poems are getting away!” Someone cries.
And it is true.

Freed from their captors, they vow to fly until honored,
never more flung out in haste.
“What will we do without poems?”

Cry the mayors of Israel, Palestine, Ghana, Afghanistan,
Uzbekistan, Iran, Pakistan and Massapequa?

The words fly higher and higher,
a snowy silence raining below.
Everyone grows hungry (except for the postmen).

The wars all stop, everyone forgetting about Allah
and Jesus, Mohammad and Moses, now praying
instead to Dickinson and Keats, Mahapatra and Rumi.

Things get so bad, someone actually resurrects Rod McKuen.
The temples close down, the mosques. The Wailing Wall
collapses from the weight of tears.

“Return to Sender,” cry the envelopes.
But it’s no use, as the beauty of the world
dries up. Flowers go on permanent boycott,

refusing to be part of a universe
where poems gestate, percolate, aerate
and audaciously perambulate.

“It just ain’t fittin’” explains one distressed Iris
(who asked to remain anonymous).
Anonymous, synonymous í nameless

Faceless, un-deified, unnamed.
The old gods vanquished, so does the need
for ‘US’ and ‘THEM.’

“Every child shall have a pen!”
Cry the people famished for lyricism.

This is how the poems return, each by each, born again.
And a little child did lead them.

(Although in San Antonio, where two post offices merged,
people complained that flaky postmen were still seen
delivering mail to wrong addresses, and holding mail of the elderly hostage.

“Texas is just bigger than any of us imagined,”
cried a distressed postal worker, who asked to remain

(Later, it is discovered the disgruntled employee
had been denied Ham-N-Cheese at lunch.)
He quit his job, vowing revenge.

But since there were no more wars, no guns,
he performed an act worse than homicide,
becoming a devotee of Rod McKuen, and copying his style.

© 2010 Ally Acker

I sent this to the New Yorker…But they didn’t bite. Go figure….

Film fans…I’m off to Yelapa tomorrow. Wish me Scorpion luck!

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2 thoughts on “Poem for a Hungry World”

  1. Hi Ally:

    A nice collection of poems. I am one of the fortunate people who have read it already, every poem is a small masterpiece. The poem above is a fine representative of your gifts which you are so willing to share with us. Off now, to help Barbara Boxer retain her senate seat. She is another one of my heroes, along with poet Ally Acker.

    Nick Campbell

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