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You, pod of the poor
the famished, the saintly, the destitute—
of those besieged and those diseased
of St. John in his itchy wrap of hide and
fur, wild-haired as a weed in the wind—
you, oh carob, were his food
though men confuse Mark and Matthew’s
akrides (locust-the-bean) with locust the bug.

Muhammad’s soldiers ate
you on their breadless march, 
starving children in Greek cellars,
during the occupation by German
troops. Spanish Civil War victims, too,
ate you.

Locust-bean, carob, St. John’s bread, you are chocolate
in color if  not in taste although health
nuts insist that, carob, you
are as good as the real thing.
Maybe, I’d concede, you resemble a cocoa-
coated espresso bean. But fibrous, grainy,
you? You are not

No, dear carob, you
are no delicacy; you are a hungry
man’s hope. That biblical son,
the younger one, waging
his little, gunless war
in his heart
had fasted for weeks
had forgotten all
his father’s palace meat
before he stole you
ate your humble
body and
became you.

Joanna Eleftheriou

Joanna Eleftheriou is author of the essay collection This Way Back. Her poems and essays appear in Bellingham Review, Arts and Letters, and Sweeter Voices Still: An LGBTQ Anthology from Middle America. A contributing editor at Assay: A Journal of Nonfiction StudiesJoanna holds a PhD in English from the University of Missouri and teaches at Christopher Newport University and the Writing Workshops in Greece.