Human Hunger

By Mark Halliday b. 1949 Mark Halliday

Comstock stands in the densely odorous kitchen
sniffing Mrs. Yapp’s squab pies. His hunger
makes him wide awake and he can imagine Mrs. Yapp
twenty years ago when she was a bouncing Evelina

and I delight to see them there, Comstock and Mrs. Yapp,
in the creaking steaming kitchen of darkly scarred wood
beside the great black doubtless clang of the stove
being human, in 1836, in the sure conviction

that the human had better be fed. The pies bubble up—
apples, bacon, onions, brown sugar and breast of pigeon—
“A cork’s no good without the bottle, Mrs. Yapp!”
She grins and kicks his shin and I turn the page.


It’s actually not a very good novel—
over-invested in local color...
And the same may be said about thee and me,
in 2036, by the Supreme Kakutani.


Oh, once there was a lad named Marky
who loved on his bread excessive cheese;
oh, to write bright comments in a book’s margins was for him quite larky
and his daughter referred to an elephant when she heard him sneeze.

Ah, he felt the human mattered keenly, all un-cut and un-dried,
though to the gods our tumult may seem a paltry flap—
it was a human, after all, wrote Hardy’s “Hap”...
This Marky lived a while, my braves, a while and then he died!
Honor the cork of Comstock and the pies of Mrs. Yapp.

Source: Poetry (October 2005).


This poem originally appeared in the October 2005 issue of Poetry magazine

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October 2005
 Mark  Halliday


Poet Mark Halliday earned a BA and an MA from Brown University, and a PhD from Brandeis University. Halliday has published several collections of poetry, including Little Star (1987), selected for the National Poetry Series; Tasker Street (1992), winner of the Juniper Prize; Jab (2002); and Keep This Forever (2008). Influenced by New York School poets Kenneth Koch and Frank O’Hara, Halliday writes disarmingly accessible and . . .

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POET’S REGION U.S., Midwestern

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