Myesha Jenkins’s ‘Food’

Born in 1948, Myesha Jenkins spent most of her life in California.  She graduated from the University of California, Riverside, with a BA degree in Black Studies.  She moved to South Africa from the San Francisco Bay Area where she was active in progressive politics, the women’s movement and the anti-apartheid struggle.  Her collection, Breaking the surface, was published by Timbila Poetry Project in 2005.
Myesha Jenkins
My experience of life
is through food
entwined and embedded
in my memories
Home is ham hocks and pinto beans
brownies and corn pudding
reflecting the origins
of my south mama
my root
Cuba will always be
strong black coffee
and seven kinds of pork
at the Palacio Nacional
waiting to meet Fidel
Sourdough bread across the bridges
to the jeweled city of my discovery
of carnitas tacos and burritos
pad thai, mushu pork and pupusas
walking away crab cocktails
searching for myself
Years of planning and assessing
my little corner of the revolution
in Miriam’s Kitchen
or Manila Beach
through jasmin tea, jung and kimchee
or the occasional delivery of
coconut bread and codfish cakes
from Linda’s last visit to Brooklyn
The beginning of my end to drinking
Flor de Cana in Nicaragua
and it’s deadly equivalent in Hawaii
staggering to the beach
running from my dreams
My first shaky month in a new life
buying dinner “R2 a plate, mama”
from the bus stop to home
finding umngqushu and phutu,
koeksisters and all the kinds of curries
When I go to Cape Town
the trip is useless
without the Mexican, Thai, Japanese food
I crave as much
as the magic sea mountain
There is more.
Love will always be litchis
Summer is pineapple and mangoes
Indulgence is brie and a ton of seafood
or a Magnum chocolate bar
I wonder how much more of this life
I could live
without the food
swallowing all of my energy
to grow.

5 thoughts on “Myesha Jenkins’s ‘Food’

  1. Michelle Post author

    I love the evocative images in this poem. So many women have a love/hate relationship with food. Or a love relationship. Or a hate relationship.

  2. johemmant

    Well I’m lucky enough (and when I look around me, I realise I am lucky) a love relationship and I really, really relate to this piece….beautifully done. Thanks for introducing me.

  3. Julie

    This poem is so, so beautiful!!

    All of my memories of home and loved ones center around food. I think my low income background is part of the reason why. I learned early on that food is a big deal. It was also a way the women in my family showed love. Even though I now have more than enough food, I still do a nervous inventory of the cupboards every day.

    It drives my husband crazy, because I keep at least ten pounds of flour and rice in the cupboards…ha! If we have another Depression, come on over to my house to eat:)

    Myesha Jenkins is amazing. Thanks so much for sharing this! Her wonderful poem has my mind swirling with thoughts.

  4. Lucy

    It’s so true isn’t it, how food colours and animates one’s memories and responses to things, and I always respond to writing that has good evocations of food in it too. I’ve always been slightly ashamed of this, but perhaps I shouldn’t be!

  5. christine

    I like how she lists the different foods and lets them speak for themselves. I have a hard time writing about food, but in this poem Jenkins is really writing about something else, (don’t we always do that?) and entwines her life story with the food from the different places where she has lived. It’s a great inspiration to me, to see how food can be a vehicle for something else.

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