We Were Always Hungry

Inspired by We Wanted More by Justin Torres

I    

Cornucopia

Our veritable stock-house bulged at the seams. My father would order prime cuts

of lamb, clams and mussels, saffron, soy sauce, and pickled ginger. Pastries from

miles away, baklava, croissant, linzer torte, black & whites, and rugelach.

He reinvented himself as a wholesale candy and tobacco dealer in Poughkeepsie.

If we wanted a Mars bar, he brought home a case. We have mouths full of

mercury. Two of my mother’s brothers, both dentists, filled our cavities.

II  

Hunger

There were four of us—David, Paul, Laurie Ellen, and me. We never went hungry

unless our father locked us in our rooms without dinner. If Mother failed to sneak

us a snack in her apron pocket, we ate toothpaste to fill our grumbling bellies.

We were always hungry, but food had nothing to do with it. We hungered

for a cease fire. For a cessation of screaming. For doors to close gently

rather than slam as my father left in a rage, spewing epithets like shrapnel.

We were hungry to be called our sacred names, given at birth.

Names never sullied by our father. When he called me cunt,

Shanah Leah could only do so much.

Leslie B. Neustadt is a retired attorney, poet, and collagist. The author of the book Bearing Fruit: A Poetic Journey, her work is inspired by the beauty and power of the natural world, mortal joys and struggles, and an unwavering commitment to human and civil rights. Her poems have been published in numerous anthologies and journals. She is artistic director of Women Writers and Artists Matrix, and a former board member of the International Women’s Writing Guild. She produces a bi-monthly workshop series for the Guild and has taught writing workshops in the Capital region of New York.

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