For Wislawa Szymborska

What if you had to eat it silently
like a child hiding in a closet?
Suppose the clink of the metal
spoon against the ceramic white bowl
gave your position away, or if
crunching on toasted flakes inside
the thin walls of your overstuffed
cheeks alerted the authorities?

Would you wait for the grains to soak
in milk, or even water, to soften like slush
sliding into your mouth? Would you
swallow raisins whole, force your
children to suck on their puffs or pops
or oaty O’s until food mass became mash?

I see you strolling the grocery aisle
of psychedelic cereal styles dazzling like
new car models–bright, lined up, proof
that this is what freedom tastes like,
Thinking we have achieved the Great Comfort.

What if one morning it dawns on you
that your life with all its snap and crackle
depends not on that embarrassment
of choice, but on two gifts: 1) your eyes can scan
any vista without having to duck, and 2) your
noises–every scrape, shuffle, word, or exhale,
song you would sing, grunt of sustenance
made joyfully among others eating well—
can announce, I am here, me, now,
but only because this is where we live.

Robert Bires lives and writes poetry and fiction in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Read other articles by Robert.