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How To Starve

by Melissa Prunty Kemp

Take three weeks before departure to practice. It could be mid-summer squash harvest, or time for shucking summer peas. The runts and droppings would have been added to a dinner soup. Smell the boiling pork scraps saved for the first pot swirling among aromas of green. Then ladle this premature harvest into the largest gourds and pray thanks, but take the barest portion. Take all the food given to you but eat only half. What’s dry store away. These are my first instructions.

Your babies must practice, too; their training is key. First train your breast milk. Less and less intake, like you. You must train their eyes to stare through starvation, hold its hand like an invisible friend that never leaves their side. When no sound’s around but the grating of their stomach, sing rhymes to the rhythms. Drum on hollow stomach to pass the time. Their alternative is to watch you be flayed, but not before your eyes and feet are removed and fed to Molly the golden retriever.

Melissa Prunty Kemp is an English Lecturer in Atlanta, GA, and an M.F.A. graduate of Queens University of Charlotte. She has been teaching creative writing and various other composition and literature courses for the past 27 years. She wrote her first poems at age 13; they were published in the junior high literary magazine, The Bagpipe, and in yearbooks. She knew no other way at that time to extol the love she had for an unknown Cheyenne Indian in Wyoming; a poem had to be it. She has been writing and attempting to publish ever since.

Lead image: “summer squash” (via Flickr user liz west)

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  1. […] Melissa Kemp is an English Lecturer in Charlotte, NC, and an M.F.A. graduate of Queens University of Charlotte. She is originally from Roanoke, VA; she earned a BA at Hollins University and an MA in English from VA Tech. She has published poems in online, print and glossy magazines, and scholarly journals. Some notable titles are The Journal of Women and Language, California Poetry Quarterly, We Used To Be Wives (anthology), and Art & Understanding Magazine. Last year, Cease, Cows published her prose poem, “How to Starve.” […]

    • Thanks so much! I dearly love prose poetry!

      • Alisha Attella Alisha Attella

        We love it too!

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