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Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Saint Vincent de Paul Food Pantry Stomp by Martin Espada

Ten or more years ago an issue of River Styx arrived at my door bundled with a CD recorded live at a contributor reading in St. Louis sometime in the late 1990s. It's a wonderful collection of readings by all sorts of great poets, including Martin Espada, who reads this poem with a great deal of exuberance and fervency (and perhaps some foot stomping?). It also appears in Kevin Young's wonderful new anthology, The Hungry Ear: Poems of Food & Drink, which I am featuring this week on my blog in honor of the holiday best known for indulging in food and drink.

 The Saint Vincent de Paul 
      Food Pantry Stomp

 Madison, Wisconsin, 1980

Waiting for the carton of food
given with Christian suspicion
even to agency-certified charity cases
like me,
thin and brittle
as uncooked linguini,
anticipating the factory-damaged cans
of tomato soup, beets, three-bean salad
in a welfare cornucopia,
I spotted a squashed dollar bill
on the floor, and with
a Saint Vincent de Paul food pantry stomp
pinned it under my sneaker,
tied my laces meticulously,
and stuffed the bill in my sock
like a smuggler of diamonds,
all beneath the plaster statue wingspan
of Saint Vinnie,
who was unaware
of the dance
named in his honor
by a maraca shaker
in the salsa band
of the unemployed.

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