Home > Poetry > Malt O Meal, Since 1919
Published: Mon Jul 26 2021
Diego Isaias Hernández Méndez, Convertiendse en Characoteles / Sorcerers Changing into Their Animal Forms (detail), 2013, oil on canvas. Arte Maya Tz’utujil Collection.
Online 2021 Food Race Violence
Malt O Meal, Since 1919

While Post Consumer Brands was just getting started
“Making delicious hot wheat cereal,” serial-killing sprees
By white mobs experimenting to see if Blacks bled
Plantation Organic Blackstrap Molasses were also underway.
Which having tasted the iron, potassium, & calcium-rich
Refinement, I can rightfully say it will keep you up all night.
But not the type of up that produces offspring off
Bedsprings (though children will keep you up as well),
But Bigelow Plantation Mint Green Tea up. I’m talking
Turning in your sleep Br’er Rabbit popped collar, bowtie,
& the Tar Baby up. Not jackrabbit or Roger Rabbit up,
But Bugs Bunny top hat & tap dance up, Michigan J. Frog
Belching ragtime up, Owl Jolson “I Love to Singa” up,
With a cheer for Uncle Sammy and another for my mammy,
& I’m thinking of all those Looney Toons I watched
As a pup, or the pup we had until he passed from a disease
His mother passed down to him & the rest of the litter.
I’m thinking of you too, Ma, in the kitchen microwaving
Malt O Meal, the Malt for malted barley, the O for ferric
Orthophosphate or the shape our mouths make when we wake.
I’m thinking of the last conversation I had with my sister,
How she asked, Why didn’t we just have oatmeal? Wondering
If it was because of some government subsidy we had
No idea we were receiving. This morning, as I stir
Cereal from the first box of barley I ever purchased,
I’m thinking of how we slurped it up like warm baby food,
How it sometimes splatted the bibbed napkins that fell
To our laps leaf-slow if we made the slightest movement.
Aunt Jemima tells us syrup is thicker than blood; Uncle Ben
Carson, muted; Rastus from Cream of Wheat says, Costs ’bout_
1¢ for a great big dish_, & with the nostalgia of how good it was,
What with the puddle of cold 2% milk, warm margarine,
& the whitest of sugars, I shovel & shovel until it’s all gone.

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Clemonce Heard is the author of the poetry collection Tragic City (Anhinga Press, 2021), which won the 2020 Anhinga-Robert Dana Poetry Prize, selected by Major Jackson, and investigates the events of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre. Heard’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Missouri Review, Cimarron Review, AGNIIron Horse, World Literature Today, Poetry, Rattle, and elsewhere. Heard received a 2018–19 Tulsa Artist Fellowship, was the 2019–20 Ronald Wallace Poetry Fellow at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and is a 2022-23 MacDowell Fellow and a 2023 Helene Wurlitzer Foundation Artist. (updated 5/2022)

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