I have included a few notes and comments regarding the history of this poem below, at the end, so as to not inadvertently guide website visitors through their reading.
"This is hunger. I am Hungary."
a poem bearing witness
by Geoffrey Allison. Original copyright 2015.
Hadley said “there are so many sorts of hunger” almost a century ago and truth keeps these words afloat: their meaning bobs up and down right now on rafts in the Mediterranean and echoes throughout the Carpathian Basin.
There is hunger all around me…
To endure, placing one tired, or maimed, foot in front of the other, and continue forward — a massive exodus leaving sands wet with tears and blood — traveling toward safety and security for family, friends and neighbors. This is hunger. I am Hungary.
To understand there is too much homelessness already and not want more in streets and doorways. This is hunger. I am Hungary.
To suspect perceived differences and guard ourselves from these. This is hunger. I am Hungary.
To anguish for too long under a pounding hammer and a slashing sickle — implements conceived in hope by one and poorly wielded by others — and forge a future from this suffering. This is hunger. I am Hungary.
To protect fields and flocks from trespassers — uninvited strangers for whom we have not planted enough grain and raised enough livestock — and husband inventories for the safety and security of family, friends, and neighbors. This is hunger. I am Hungary.
To plant soil, fertilized with the blood of brethren, and take pride in its harvest and share this fruit with the world. This is hunger. I am Hungary.
To plan and construct based on rules set and communicated, only to have those rules suddenly change — shifting sands scattered across two continents by mortar fire, missiles and the application of foreign policies — and worry about the future. This is hunger. I am Hungary.
To desire a better history be saved and remembered and a better future lived by our children — and their children’s children. This is hunger. I am Hungary.
To dance in peace and joy and celebrate in public parks, holding one another, under free and open skies. This is hunger. I am Hungary.
To dream worlds into existence: where the quest for freedom is no less important because of skin color or religion. This is hunger. I am Hungary.
To be stolen from goulash, shackled at the gulag, only to return home again branded — herded under yoke into Diasporas of purchasing preferences toward foreign economic interests: restaurant chains, beverages, grocers and personal care product retailers — and watch a country’s surplus exit through porous borders so desperately now defended that forces the question: who then do we work for? This is hunger. I am Hungary.
To live in the present and fear perceived threats against it, and too easily forget times we struggled for independence and freedom. This is hunger. I am Hungary.
To wish to integrate cultures without threat of subversion and create new societies, friends, and families. This is hunger. I am Hungary.
To fight against the forces that might rewrite history, demanding not retribution but awareness and vigilance to prevent history from repeating. This is hunger. I am Hungary.
To firmly stand on unpopular ground awaiting the mudslide of popular opinion. This is hunger. I am Hungary.
To recognize similar circumstance: one of the homeless aiding the homeless. This is hunger. I am Hungary.
To choose compassion — distributing food, clothes, and medicine and offering shelter — at train stations and roadside camps. This is hunger. I am Hungary.
To smile in spite of adversity and temporarily convert a train station terrace into a concrete pitch and pass a football between fellow travelers and volunteers. This is hunger. I am Hungary.
To succumb to frustration at obstacles hindering progress and throw stones and garbage, rush barricades, and cut fences in search of freedom. This is hunger. I am Hungary.
To swallow hard and resist deadly force and match the thrown stones with sprays of water — not bullets. This is hunger. I am Hungary.
To clash. To hug. To cry. To smile. To bleed. To heal. To share. To take. To seek. To deny. To love. To hate. To stand firm. To move forward.
“There are so many sorts of hunger.”
Poem development history & comments
I had finished reading A MOVEABLE FEAST prior to heading to Hungary. We were in Budapest at the height of the refugee crisis. When we arrived I located Keleti station on a map and began researching organizations who were involved in coordinating volunteer efforts and work to learn how and if I could volunteer while there. In the interim we — my wife and I — worked our various jobs during the day and then moved about the conjoined cities at night and on weekends. There was a uniquely singular phrase — almost identically expressed, word for word — uttered by the expats and tourists we met while there.
"Where is the UN?"
Brits were the most frequent nationality we encountered. But Americans uttered a near identical phrasing, too. As did other Europeans we met and who spoke English well enough for us to have some semblance of a discussion.
It was the repetitive nature of the phrasing that stuck with me. It cut a groove, not unlike wagon wheel ruts you might find out in the prairie. A line drawn. A scar. Evidence of people traveling. Migrating. And it was how the words were spoken, with notes reminiscent of religious disbelief, as though a deity had failed those speaking in dumbfounded tones. Querying out loud what it all meant. And, as importantly — with question marks just behind their irises — what the crisis portended about where we were headed.
The repetitional nature of the phrasing reminded me of The Beatitudes. Only I didn't want — or, as is more likely the case, was not skilled enough — to develop a poetic conceit around "Where is the UN?" as a foundation for a prose poem. I recalled a quote Hadley had made in A MOVEABLE FEAST.
Then I just started listening; listening and watching.
Originally, I set the poem against a backdrop of various people and places in Budapest I photographed in 2015.
GEOFFREY ALLISON || SIXSTRINGcpa
Hello. It's me, a simple scribbler, independently writing and publishing with a bit of information for visitors. This page contains select free-to-read poems and flash fictions, or what I refer to as my Short Shorts.
With the exception perhaps of any impromptu poetry temporarily posted here, the date shown under title is merely the sharing date and is not the date of creation, which may be years earlier, as is reflected by applicable copyright dates.