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Friday, March 05, 2010


by Ray Brown

50,000 people die of hunger each day.
A child, every 5 seconds.

Every 5 seconds,
as the world devours a McDonald’s french fry -
starvation consumes a child.

The path to this destination of death – contorted.

At first, pains of hunger turn to numbness
then tissue thin skin
clings to the skeleton, like a balloon out of air
falls amongst the netting on the circus floor
below the high wire of life….

In Costa Rica, 53 years old,
he trudges for the 40th consecutive year,
the 14,600th consecutive day to the refuse dump
where he fights with the other human scavengers – and the rats
for rotten, left over morsels to sustain his family.

When the garbage truck arrives, a rush like lemmings
or vermin avoiding the exterminator
to be the first - push to the front
when the dump body releases rotting, days old food.

Sheltered in a tin covered lean-to,
an anxious family awaits
having returned from a difficult walk
to the stream below
- where people
bathe, drink, urinate, defecate
and catch amoebic dysentery.

Upon his return, his pickings,
food scraps parceled out among family members
each - with their own day of the week to eat.

In the intervening days,
when the growls pull on the heartstrings of a mother -
when the cries can no longer be tolerated
she mixes clay with salt and water -
a paste more suitable for a child’s nursery school project,
and bakes dirt pies -
so the stomachs of her children feel full.     

On the beach at the resort -
with the white colored sand, the crystal blue waters,
under the green trimmed cabana
the ocean waves lullaby my afternoon’s end.
I invite an emaciated urchin to share
half a local unfinished sandwich,
one the restaurant’s garbage purveyor can do without.

I offer it up
encourage this thin replica of a human child
to pick it from the plate -
tears from the child’s eyes -
at first - I thought appreciation
but when he still resisted,
my inquiry answered:

“This is Thursday, and I only get to eat on Friday…

Friday is my day to eat…..”

Ray Brown lives in Frenchtown, NJ. His first collection of poems, I Have His Letters Still, will be published in June. A graduate of the University of Notre Dame and Rutgers-The State University of New Jersey, his poetry has appeared in the 13th Annual Poetry Ink Chapbook, Moonstone Publishing, Philadelphia; The Star-Ledger of Newark; NJ Lawyer Magazine; and at He received a NJ Poetry Society 2009 Recognition Award, and will be published in upcoming volumes of The Edison Literary Review, The Big Hammer, FreeXpresSion, The River Poets Journal, and The River. Three of his poems have been published by The New Verse News.