Famine Road

Andrea Read



I will tell you the whole story

It goes like this –

Once upon a time it was not a fine day

I see a dark thread running through the cloth of your family.

Yes I know this thread it’s crimson

It’s called malaise. 

All the women in my family sew

First thing I hemmed was an apron

Hazel and my mother still crochet blankets

No one knits socks anymore.

My grandmother made lace with knots

That’s called tatting.

She had useful fingers


I want to be useful

You are a box of tools disguised as a girl.



First there was thread then there was swimming

There were fish, a crystal clear lake

The family was flush.

On the wide front of one morning, I wake up

The forest is bristling

Will we have enough food today?

Father is not talking

One of his legs is bent, I see him

Through the courtyard gate

Oh those were the old days, big as dinner plates.



We were traveling east

Loaded with tubers

The ground was saying things again

And we were suffering


You said – you shall not defile the land

In which you live

In which I also dwell


Then you said –

Be rain

Be unshod

Be unwed


Remember how you sent us packing

How we fled



Run! the children cry. So we run

Quick, children, find your socks!

We run through the middle of the city,

Look for the gate leading out



I am packed

Inside myself I hold

like an hour

all the rest

In the field

in the vicinity

of things

the family walks


and I do not

I am cold

Inside myself my feet

walk outside



One night our blessings


I am cold

smell of buttermilk and almonds

That means you are bereaved.

Two extra legs

inside myself or




Say something about the tent.

In the vicinity of supper

in the field

of things –

always the tent

Always the tent moving.

Every night I

smell traveling

pack food

Inside myself

I take time

for supper –

like an hour

Life is mild

and arrives.



Let’s go ahead and name that place

Let’s name it giant

No, name it gigantic.


How’s my story holding up?

You must order and reorder the woods.

How will I ever name that place

again –


Andrea Read’s poems have appeared most recently, or are forthcoming, in Barrow Street, Black Rabbit Quarterly, Copper Nickel, FIELD, Lily Poetry Review, Plume, The Missouri Review, and Tupelo Quarterly. She lives with her family in Somerville, Massachusetts.



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