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Saturday, April 24, 2021


by Laurel Benjamin

The world's worst humanitarian crisis is on track for its worst year yet. Famine alarms are ringing again as over half of Yemen’s population is going hungry. A record 50% of all children under 5 are acutely malnourished and 400,000 are at risk of dying without treatment. —International Rescue Committee’s Amanda Catanzano at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Yemen, April 21, 2021

If "Hunger Ward" wins an Oscar Sunday night at the 93rd Academy Awards, it could help the short documentary save lives. [The] 39-minute doc was shot in two pediatric malnutrition hospitals in Yemen in 2020. Its main "characters" are health care workers and two children, Abeer, who was 6 and weighed 12 pounds during filming, and Omeima, who was 10 and weighed 24 pounds. —StarTribune, April 23, 2021

They call it under fives
as eyes sockets 
hold bulging red globes
girls and boys with greasy curls 
built on a raging war
as we pull the trigger
“others” bombing
like ribbons cut from the sky
and a pavilion for mourners
now an obscene shroud
no honor for the dead.
In a hospital, crippled
strips of barely flesh 
ladle on a handmade scale—
weigh the bones—
and as one by one 
names on the list
are crossed off, each mother
screams through the corridor.
The girl wears pink 
against hair and skin a light brown 
her eyes green eyes.
How will she become a woman.
The nurse says “smile”
and cradles the girl’s cheek 
with veined hands
as another girl bounces a balloon
over a stareless boy.
No one can get the goods in 
yet we shelve pictures 
in our memory bank 
of knees wider than thighs—
we’ve seen these all our lives
and our new leader says
he’ll pull back 
but more than Saudi support 
like any war
the words civilian, collateral,
starvation. Just separate 
the sinews
cover them with mother’s

Laurel Benjamin holds an MFA from Mills College. Her work has appeared in Turning a Train of Thought Upside Down: An Anthology of Women's Poetry, California Quarterly, The Midway Review, Mac Queens Quinterly, Wild Roof Journal, Tiny Seed Journal, Global Quarantine Museum Pendemics issue. She is affiliated with the Bay Area Women’s Poetry Salon and the Port Townsend Writers.