2021 Porch Prize Winner in Poetry

The ghosts of your dead relatives laugh when you say you are not political
the ones who starved to death

When you were a fish you were hungry
you ate what and when you wanted and didn’t think much about it
Then the ghost of a half-eaten fish
started to hunt you
And you were haunted by the word, the words of angry stars

Once when you were human you were Irish
You thought you were not political
You thought you just didn’t like potatoes

you grew up thinking the Irish couldn’t cook
because there were no family dishes
the starved don’t pass on recipes
instead they send the hunger
you inherit the hunger and call it your appetite

Words whispered over the pots your ancestors stirred
are painted on walls in your dreams

what your father devours gracelessly, his granddaughter eschews
she won’t eat leftovers because she wants something new

what you cannot stomach as a child will
Come for you in the desires of your descendants

when they said grace, you thought it quaint faith, that it meant nothing
but that grace was sent to you, along with the hunger

you go to parades and parties and one St. Patrick’s Day your non-Irish cousin drinking protestant whiskey makes a joke “how can you not feed yourself when surrounded by water” you tell him you were once a fish it’s not so simple as you think

you feel instant, murderous sympathy towards those starved victims, your ancestors
it has been seven generations so instead of waging war you try
to love potatoes you tell yourself “start with the skin and work your way in” you even become vegetarian
you tell yourself you are good and you love animals so much not because you are one but because you are so peaceful
but what you are feeling is the memory of being hunted

a rumbling that is not hunger but heartache

like that time you stayed with your mate waiting for his broken bone to heal
but he was eaten instead

and you remember the long loneliness

Don’t let guilt stop you from eating what they couldn’t
plant it in new earth, reap it in its time
salt it
Dip it in fat and devour it
say the grace they can no longer say
let it echo back in time to them, lighter than potatoes

and don’t eat alone, let someone love you for God’s sake
mind your own late blight
let yourself leave shore to find the one whose chewing you can tolerate
stop pretending there is not that one person

Let us tell you what’s not political

who you want to eat with, the heart, who you would hunt and cook for, the way someone’s mouth looks eating fries, who you would kill for and who could kill you with a crumb, and it would be fine.
It would be sweet. It would be meat.


Rina Kenney lives outside of Philadelphia, PA. She earned an English degree from Penn State and spent most of her twenties working with women and children in crisis.  The experience of losing multiple pregnancies and then raising two daughters reignited her love of writing. She writes poetry and has completed a spiritual memoir about pregnancy loss and grief.