Poetically Yours Ep. 25 - Wisconsin Poet Uses Food To Describe Heartache

Jan 22, 2021

Welcome to WNIJ's Poetically Yours. Poetically Yours showcases poets from northern Illinois but this week we are crossing the Wisconsin border. 

Charles Payne.
Credit David Artbook Johnson

Charles Payne was born in Michigan but currently resides in Madison, Wisconsin. As a child, he loved hearing the sound of Paul Harvey’s voice. Payne said Harvey’s innate ability to describe every intricate detail truly inspired him.

Payne’s works explore personal narrative and social commentary from his experience as a working poor Black male dying to live and living to die. 

Payne has performed at poetry slams and is the winner of the ALL Originals prize for his poem “Dead End.” 

Payne also wrote a book entitled "Love, Payne, Hate and Adversity."

Today he shares his poem “Mourning Food.” Payne won first place for the Best Poetry PRO Short Version at the Monologues & Poetry International Film Fest for this poem


My stomach is empty since you left the breakfast table

I remember how we first met:

Things were so sunny-side-up,

you made me smile like strawberry lips on pancakes.

With your banana button nose

and dark blueberry eyes

You were the perfect food critic.

I loved reading your articles in Bon Appetit 

and, more than anything,

I loved the fact that I laughed at all of your silly jokes—

our conversations flowed easy like gravy over biscuits, southern comfort.

We were the perfect ingredients

Hungry for more knowledge,

We went on our first date

My mind was scrambled

my nerves were sizzling like bacon

My stomach was flipped like an omelet.

But, as coffee jitters wore off,

I realized that our words were not like gravy,

But more like oatmeal

Because they stuck with me throughout the day.

And, with each following date,

I realized you were adding more to taste

Whole milk to soften me up.

Sweet and sticky, lip-smacking brown sugar kisses, to drive me nuts.

Girl! I could not get enough of your raspberry ribbons of romance,

I began to need you to start my day

But after a month of mouthwatering memories,

you grew tired of my oatmeal and wanted a new Top Chef to write about

So, I opened a new restaurant. Named it Bob Evans after your dad, Becky!

I tried to be the cook you wanted.

I tried to be sticky buns sweet,

I tried to be savory like a crepe filled with meat

I tried to add green chilies, jalapenos and tabasco sauce

to spice things up.

But the whole milk you added made me too mushy to ever be enough-

I was warm and soggy cereal-

with no snap, crackle, pop-

and all you wanted was a new cook to fill your fix

Slowly- I learned the way to your heart

wasn’t through your stomach and that

only fine dining could fill you up

You left me because I am just a short-order cook.

the type you could find on your local IHOP

I am sorry I was mass-produced in a cereal factory in Battle Creek.

I am sorry I just happened to taste good

picked off the menu by mistake.

I am sorry I couldn’t be your Michelin Star

You need to go to Le Cordon Bleu

to find a man you want,

a man more rich and fulfilling than I could ever be.

I needed to accept the fact that you needed to leave.

Now I'm here at the countertop,

eggs running and they just won't stop.

No insomnia toast around to mop it up.

I miss you the most at the start of each day.

Now I see why they say missing breakfast will leave you depressed throughout the day.

  • Yvonne Boose is a current corps member for Report for America, an initiative of the GroundTruth Project. It's a national service program that places talented journalists in local newsrooms like WNIJ. You can learn more about Report for America at wnij.org.