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  • The Price of Rice

    A loaded convoy not seen since last year's June
    travels over a make-shift road,
    through a baked and barren plain.
    Over parched ruts, it kicks up a plume of dust.
    Sun pummels an emaciated crowd,
    their skins the color of long dried mud.
    Ribs exposed like armor used for battle,
    they wait without words for the rumble of trucks,
    a roar that resonates like a dinner bell.
    They thirst for the bellowing cloud
    that wafts behind the fleet.
    It finally comes; it stirs the crowd,
    inertia herds them toward a gate meant to keep order.
    They move in a large mass that from the sky might look like warm syrup
    being poured over a platter of cooked cakes.
    The hewn gate busts from its latch,
    it rips from its hinges and drops like a starved soldier.
    Loaded trucks bull their way over the fallen gate.
    The crowd stampedes undeterred by guards and guns,
    canvases are yanked; ropes break like threads
    stamped sacks of LONG-GRAIN RICE: 65 lbs
    wrapped in burlap glint in the sun
    like the miracle of loaves and fishes.
    They are tossed like beanbags used in a child's game.
    Hundreds of nimble hands grope and snatch
    pulling at the seams; with no mercy seams unravel,
    grains spill; frantic fingers fall to the ground,
    frenzied bodies hover over trampled mounds.
    Mother's scurry amid flailing feet scooping up the month's food,
    crawling amid the torrent of bodies.
    Children stuff their mouths to rescue one grain at a time.
    Through the din, a mother hears the screams of her child;
    panic smoothers starvation,
    legs like posts act as stout barriers,
    but only when the food is claimed can she reach her boy.
    Blood spurts from his mouth
    forcing the scavenged rice to tumble
    to the dead earth.
    Her trembling hand scrapes grains from a crevice on his small skull.
    His lovely lashes fall together like frayed stitching.
    She lifts his still body;
    and cradles the price of rice.

    Pamela Wilonski

    image courtesy of:

    Pamela Wilonski
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