I wrote this sestina for a creative writing class in 2009.
Steelhaulers don’t eat no quiche.
It’s pie, when they can get it. When they cannot –
which is usual – the kids eat
hot dogs, boiled noodles, and mustard.
Whatever’s in the cupboards, mostly empty.
Nutrition is moot. Problem’s money.
Tree-hugging yuppies sniff, “You can’t eat money,”
as they snack on free-range fair-trade vegan quiche.
We poor know better. When the fridge is empty
So’s the wallet. Perhaps the kids cannot
chew greenbacks, even coated well with mustard,
but ramen (ten cents a brick) they can eat.
It’s not hard finding something they will eat.
Hunger inversely correlates with money.
Even when it’s just white bread and mustard,
they’ll choke it down. The kids don’t dream of quiche
except in context of a million treats they cannot
possibly afford. Stomachs digest dreams when empty.
Dining on dimes leaves soul and pockets empty,
even if it fills the body. We eat
to live. We’d love to live to eat, but cannot
spare dimes already owed to heat, or money
for shoes, or medicine perhaps. Quiche
is a joke here, unless ingeniously contrived from mustard.
The yuppies squawk our kids will die of mustard
if they get too much on white bread. It’s empty
concern, a hollow condemnation of the quiche-
obsessed. “Those people should realize what they eat
is the cause of their disease, malaise and lack of money.
They should choose better (please ignore that they cannot).”
The fact is, we cannot
afford to feed the kids more than mustard,
or better mustard. All food requires money.
Cupboard, wallet, kids go empty
when pennies must divert from what we eat
to heat, to rent, to shoes. Sorry to poison your quiche.
For the kids, I’d take a quiche, but I cannot
be entirely grateful for the eats. At least the mustard
came sans the empty charity of easy money.