Poetry Advent Calendar Day 23

On the 23rd day of our poetic journey, we present another poem from Robert Hilles’ collection Shimmer. “Sugar Sandwiches” is a reminder to us all to practice gratitude for the things we have today.

Sugar Sandwiches  

When I was a boy
Sometimes between paydays
There wasn’t anything to eat
But sugar sandwiches
Which consisted of margarine
Spread on two slices of white bread
And a tablespoon of white sugar
Added to that

I went hungry at times
But didn’t starve
As people do in this world
Even now
I know what it’s like
To open an empty fridge
But that is not the same
As having nothing to eat for days
Or weeks
To waste away
To lose hope

You’ve helped me realize
That wealth is like deep snow
The farther in it I go
The more difficult it is
To go back or ahead
The snow just as deep
Either way
Abundance is a moral trap
And having too much
Rots our insides
And no matter how much someone has
It is never enough
In those years when I ate sugar
Sandwiches I walked
Up the driveway at our house
Waist deep in snow
The middle of winter
February say
Having got off the school bus
It was already dark
My brother and I entered
A cold empty house
Dad in town or late from work
Mom in the hospital in Fort William
We lit the wood stoves
And when the house warmed
We made sugar sandwiches
Then later watched TV
Ben Casey or Perry Mason
Shows where someone was either physically sick
Or had committed a murder
Both things far from our lives
The house eventually got warm
We could move around in it
And Dad came home
Smelled of beer
Sat at the kitchen table
Smoked a cigarette
And ate nothing
Not even a sugar sandwich
He saved those for us.
Maybe he made a cup of coffee
With the percolator on the stove
And put in the bit of Carnation evaporated milk left

Yes this is a love poem
And how sugar sandwiches
Helped me to love
You all these years later
To find your warmth
At night inside covers
Find in your morning smile
How I am built from sugar sandwiches
And a warm house
On a cold February night
How I turn to you in bed
And hold you and
Don’t feel like I am falling

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