Volume 20, Number 1

Recommended Daily Allowance

1. Old Dishes, New Sink

Chances are, if you’re here right now,
you’re not going hungry.

In fact, according to your government,
nobody is.

Americans now—
those without food,

those on food stamps,
stamps that can’t keep stretching ’til the end of the month—

none of these Americans are “hungry”; no,
they’re all just “food insecure.”

Like a euphemism is a grocery cart,
as if mangled language is a farm.


2. A Typical Morning with My Three-Year-Old:

“How’s your tummy? You want Daddy to make you some breakfast? What do you want—you want cereal? You want grits?”
Yes grits.”
“Grits and toast?”
“No toast. I don’t want it.”
“How ’bout eggs?”
“How ’bout . . . waffles!”
“Sorry, sweetheart, the waffles are all gone. You can have eggs and cheese.”
Yes eggs and cheese. I like eggs and cheese and milk.”
“How many bacon? . . . Honey, how many—one or two?”
“Maybe . . . three bacon.”
“And some milk to drink?”
“Yes please, I drink milk.”


3. Jen Likes the Salad at Este

She likes how it’s got gold raisins and red onions, and she says it’s got the good kind of Ranch.

Me, I think salad is salad.

But then again, the dinner salad at Rusted Sun, that’s something. Or Thai beef salad in Seattle at the place I go on Roy Street . . . trust me—you’ll be glad you’ve got a mouth.

Or this place in Tacoma called Katy Downs. They’ve got about nineteen Northwest microbrews on tap. Get a bucket of clams, drawn butter, the world’s best halibut and chips. Summer time down on the water, eating in the sun and the sounds of Commencement Bay; now we’re talkin’.

Or something as simple as pears, you know?—you bring ’em home, have to set ’em on the counter, have to wait ’til they’re ripe then eat ’em fast before they turn to mush but Ohmigod! when they’re perfect . . . it’s like kissing the whole morning sky.

What else?—

One time driving up through eastern Oregon where all it is, is rolling horizons of wheat, just gold wheat everywhere . . .

and it must’ve been right around eight o’clock because the colors were even more golden, the sunset coming low-angled . . .

half of everything bright, and half shadowed . . .

shining and almost looking like water . . .

anyway, up in eastern Oregon, and off a ways—all by itself it seemed—was this white two-story house. Very normal, of course, nothing strange about it, but I got this idea: suddenly I wanted to turn off the freeway and find whatever road went out there through the fields.

Such a strange feeling, you know? I wanted to go to the porch, and knock on the door, and thank whoever lived there.

Just say “Hi” and tell them, “Thank you. Thank you for bread.”


4. 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + . . .

Take it all for granted.
Almost all of us do.

Take it all for granted;
almost all of us almost always do.

But not everyone. Not everyone;
too many can’t. . . .

Multiply their hunger, what’s the total?
Multiply going with little, with less—

and don’t subtract for apathy,
and don’t divide by rhetoric,

don’t hide behind square roots
and figure it’s their fault—

what’s the sum? What’s it add up to
in ordinary fishes and loaves?


5. All-New New and Improved

It’s not easy, but it’s not hard either,
inventing entries for The War Thesaurus.

For “blown to bits”
write “life hiatus.”

For “cities destroyed”
write “optimism setback,” and so on like that;

it’s just a matter of synonyms.
Then erase, repeat, and stir:

Turn “responsible” into
“Could you pass me the pork chops?”

Change “fault” into “Pass the potatoes, please.”
And for “government”?—

say, “Later. After I’ve finished my coffee”;
say, “The poor will always be with you—

scratch that:
the ‘financially un-robust’ . . .

which means, of course, that they’re opportuned,
opportuned to keep striving,

like a fire in the belly, like a hunger . . .
oh wait, hunger’s not a word anymore.”


7. Bless us, O Lord, and these Thy gifts

which we are about to receive from Thy bounty
through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Bless us, O Lord, and these Thy gifts
which we are about to receive from Thy bounty:

Bless us, O Lord, and these Thy gifts.
Thank you, O Lord, for these Thy gifts.

Thank you for appetite,
bless us with fullness,

and O Lord
hear our prayer:

May there always be wild salmon,
enough to fill orcas and people;

may there always be rain enough for blackberries,
for their tangled Thorn Dance and Dark Song;

may there always be corn in Nebraska,
and bees for honey on our cornbread,

and cherry orchards in Washington,
and the alchemy of smokehouse and barbecue . . .

bless us, O Lord, and these Thy gifts.
And bless others. Bless those who are hungry.

And move us to do as much as rain does, as daylight.


—Rob Carney