Wednesday, October 05, 2011

A Good Breakfast - a documentary poem

I am studying documentary poetry as written by Muriel Rukeyser, Richard Wright, and Charles Reznikoff.  I remembered a documentary poem I wrote two years ago.  Here is a second look.

A Good Breakfast

Whole Wheat Pancakes with Turkey Bacon
Chunky Cinnamon Applesauce
Fat-Free or Low-Fat Milk

I remember their faces
eyebrows raised
eyes a little sunk-in
they took the milk cartons
and went to a table

they ate lunch
we all do
except those who don't have any
and this is so large a thing
that the tray could not contain
the sheer weight of the fact that
this would be their only meal

for so many, that was true
and you could smell it on them
as you could smell the wood smoke
from the fire that was their only warmth

Scrambled Eggs with Whole Wheat Toast
Pineapple Tidbits
Fat-Free or Low-Fat Milk

it would have been Brownsville Tennessee 1972 when I
passed out the milk cartons to those little ones
big girl of thirteen, who had seen her own share
of unhealthy circumstances but I always had a meal

I looked at them in the mornings as they floated
onto the bus like the wood smoke from those fires
and later as they hovered over their chairs like
dead little angel children waiting for that first meal

most of the hands that took those milk cartons
were brown or black, but not all, some were like me
the hungriest among them did not refuse the milk
could not imagine doing so, just give it to someone
who wants it, someone wants it, I would say

Yoghurt and Granola
Assorted Whole Grain Cereal
Fat-Free or Low-Fat Milk

there was no free breakfast in my day
and 11:30 can come too late for some
not able to grasp the intricasies of math
or english, too busy with the studies of their own
social problems, like the ache in the stomach
or the hair that is falling out, not to mention
the loose teeth

I made a point to go to Ariane's school
Montgomery Alabama in 1995
and watch the children eat breakfast
tears fall down my face now as they did that day
as I watched impish brown boys and bouncing blonde girls
tease each other with orange peels in their mouths
bright orange smiles hiding solid teeth
and they spit them out quickly and slurped up the milk
and went off to memorize poems or study the rainforest

so my vote for the best invention of my lifetime is not
the computer that kids use to investigate life in Kenya
or the microwave or the cell phone
it is free school lunch and breakfast
a little grain,
a little protein,
some fruit and milk
in a full belly

The menus are from a USDA website


  1. ~freakin' speechless~

  2. Coming back here to tell you again how I love this poem.

  3. I like the way you've crafted this poem by integrating these recipes and named food with gentle recollection and really lovely imagery.

  4. This is really good! I've never heard of documentary poetry before - interesting!

  5. I should not have read this between breakfast and lunch! I don't think I've ever drooled over a poem before this!Fantastic, I really enjoyed reading this!

  6. They say that breakfast is the most important meal of the day right? I totally agree with the message of this, that we should be keeping kid's bellies full, especially with a hearty and healthy breakfast!


Feel free to critique the poetry. I employ a sophisticated thick hide technology.