How Hungry are the Children?

They chew with soft-jawed mouths open; molars loose in the gums.
         It may be post-war steak, grey under kitchen lights -
         family sat snug in new council high-rise, their first with an inside loo.

They eat fast, feet kicking out like Olympic swimmers under the table – hollow legs:
         is what our grandpa would call us and the dog. Plowing
         through his frozen ready-meals, demolishing precious blocks of chocolate. 
He said he’d known what real hunger was – in his great depression slum-life.
         Our mouths would burst – ripe, guilty with chunks
         of microwave mac and cheese. Licked cleaned sweetie wrappers in pockets.

The children? Oh! They eat until bulging intestines touch the inner walls of
          their bellies. Until they are evacuated, with relief – ready to be 
          filled again. They dream of cream buns, Saturday shopping trips,

slices of white bread at birthday parties – painted luxuriously with hundreds and thousands – 
          that cling to juice-sticky chins. Wasps
          hovering over the un-touched plate of mini-frankfurters.

Little ones, untucked shirts and rolled down socks – they are eating hot-chips after school – 
          grease-lipstick wiped faces. Tear a hole in the bag and
          the steam escapes. Hands wipe the mess on school jumpers – they 

bite their hunger waiting in the bus stop. Feet push the litter of empty 
           snickers wrappers and soft-drink cans in circles. Digging through school
           bags – scratching for crumbs like famine-stricken chickens.  

They eat with abandon / they eat carefully, sometimes slowly – they are told off for
           eating with elbows on the table, eating too much, too little – they
           never wait for grace. Very hungry are the children. 


Stephanie Powell

What is the significance of this work to you?

How hungry are the children - the women in my family have an unhealthy relationship with food. They are either big-boned, curvy ladies who were fat children and grew up to be diet-obsessed, or they are thin and birdlike, with a fear of being large. I grew up being poked and prodded by both groups, feeling very much like the chubby girl in the middle. I was always a very hungry child with a sweet tooth and it was hard not to feel punished for something I felt I had very little control over.

Scene III - I lived in and out of share houses for just over ten years. You can find yourself in really good ones and in really bad ones. The really good ones are where you feel like you're living with a chosen family. There is a level of comfort and familiarity there that is unique to living in any other situation. Even though I often felt a sense of being anchorless. The idea of a chosen family is something that's also tied into queer culture, about constructing your own spaces of acceptance.

What is the significance of the form you chose for this work?

Poetry helps me sieve through memory, to find the expression I'm looking for.

What was your process for creating this work?

I generally write out my poems in a notebook first, then I type them up and make corrections, re-type them again before writing them up into a word doc—this process really helps me edit out words that I've used twice and make sure I'm using words as effectively as possible.

Stephanie Powell is a poet based in London. She grew up in Melbourne, Australia. She's had work published in the Bacopa Literary Review, The Halcyone, Not Very Quiet, New World Writing and in two anthologies published by Enthusiastic Press. When not writing poetry or hiding up in her attic, she works in documentary television. More poems can be found on her instagram: @theatticpoet

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