I blame it on a big family.
There were nine of us
and never enough food.
Mother would cook and serve
and stay thin while we
fought each other with forks.
Plates were always licked clean
out of hunger. Three of us
- Mary, John, and Matthew
- starved to death. The rest of us
ate their share. Because of this
there's always a gnawing
in my heart which hears my
stomach complain it's empty.
It isn't. It just worries that there
won't be seconds. There never
were then. Mother wouldn't
let us chew our sibling's bones.
Remember the children
in Africa, she'd say. We aren't
cannibals. We're Christians.
Still, we wanted to. Hunger does
that to a person if it's sharp enough.
Today in restaurants I steal
food from other people's plates
when they get up to go to
the restroom. They never notice.
They were only children.
That's why they're so svelte.
They don't get that fat
is for survival.
After a newspaper career, Eric Chiles began teaching writing and journalism at colleges in eastern Pennsylvania. He is the author of the chapbook "Caught in Between," and his poetry has appeared in Allegro, Blue Collar Review, Chiron Review, Main Street Rag, Plainsongs, Rattle, and elsewhere.