A Strong Desire for Something Filling
by Deborah Byrne

I spend time in grocery stores. Eying food,
touching the lightness of bread, savoring
the dirt smell of tomatoes. I'm a hungry person.

Our mother brought home a puppy
we couldn't afford to feed. She locked it
in the shed that held ghosts
of dried, flattened horned toads,
spiritless parakeets, colorless
chameleons bought from the five and dime.
The puppy whined from hunger, shook
like a scaredy-dog when its master dies.
Neighbors stared when they passed our house.

We shopped once a month, loading our carts
with faux Oreos, Lebanon bologna, canned raviolis--
stole Snickers bars from Rexalls.
When the groceries were gone
we begged food from our grandparents.
To punish our mother for running around,
they let us go hungry. One Sunday as they prayed
at church, we shattered
their window with a rock, ate anything
we could find. That night, after the beating,
when our screams died down,
the neighbors talked so we could hear.
What they said hit
our dirty screens like June-bugs.

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