Because I’ve felt up the smooth spine of books
with the caress of my finger, and I’ve passed time
under the hold of a good book, I know my mother.
When I was seven, I learned about stone soup
from hungry soldiers in an audiobook, and you
wouldn’t believe how the stomach thinks in hunger.
My mother grew up and lived against a menu of hunger
and her Bible was the mountain peak to a pile of books.
She’s stopped going to church, but she’s said to me, you
have to believe. I was fifteen the first time
a pastor’s preaching made my tears collect like soup
in a falling bowl. I have seen my mother
cry. Don’t think that I’ve learned about my mother
from the stuff in books. It is the hunger
for our history that has instilled a craving for soup,
though I’ve also wanted the lives pictured in books.
The characters in my books didn’t keep time.
Each time we would move, I must tell you
I packed my books first. I can never tell you
what worlds we’ve known, except that my mother
has a big family rooted in disjointed land and time.
When I was two, my mother would go hungry
so that I would have bread. We have bread and books
now. Each book is a vegetable soup
brewing. When I was ten, my mother portioned soup.
She would say, come eat, books will not feed you.
When I was sixteen, I saw the world within books
and beneath my feet. When she was sixteen, my mother
wanted the chickens to lay eggs. We were hungry.
Don’t you know, books belong to people with time.
My mother would never say this. She’s waited on time,
waited for the soldiers to teach me about stone soup.
I’ve picked up a different kind of hunger,
a fistful of work. I don’t know how time kisses you,
mothers like you. I think of you, my mother
and the days we opened the pages in library books.
This is why, in hunger the world will taste to you
like history. Like our history. I keep can soup
in my mother’s cabinets and in our home, enough books.