9.1 / January 2014

The Pleasures of the Gut

For a while, I grew up hungry
Years upon years afterward there was a mistrust
not of food but of fullness
as hunger in those years was prized, formative

I can be seen in one of the only home videos from this era
hunched over a slice of birthday cake, guarding the thick icing
close to my parted lips, my eyes raised to the level of
suspicion, to the level of adult height

There were certain shirts I loved to wear best on those days
when my stomach gnawed itself,
on one was a sugar-topped strawberry.
Another was chocolate-brown and heathered
like a mousse flecked with butter.
I longed to taste a mousse. I repeated the word
and wore the shirt until it had to be torn away,
when it became too short to cover my middle,
torn away from me, screaming

For I grew, in spite of the gnaw. It seemed
a dog’s breath went behind me at all times
heaving its wet suggestions at the thigh.
Dogs, who would resort to eating the smallest thing,
the most indigestible.

I learned to speak French and was
flush with delight to know j’ai faim
I have hunger, I possess, hold this
hunger for myself. I am not the hunger.
I hold it for a time.

I hummed the harmless idioms under my breath, behind
unsteady teeth-
couper la poire en deux                                 cut the pear in two.
Meet someone halfway- to do this I would have to share fruit-
such a precious betrayal of my own body,
and who would merit the seeds?
Sucrer les fraises                                            sugar the strawberries.
To be doddery, infirm with age – as if given a strawberry
I would waste time with sugars, like some harebrained shirt.

La fin des haricots, the end of the string beans.
En plein poire. Right in the face. Right in the pear.
Tomber dans les pommes. Faint. Fall in the apples.
Oh, happiness was measured
in the apples and pears that grew wild and bee-thick in my grandmother’s backyard. Three stings for every bruised yield.

There was a year when I starved as an adult.
Charities, after all, gave us brown bags full of SPAM and
canned hominy, bread and powdered milk, when I
was small. As a young woman I smiled at a rudimentary webcam for a
middle-aged man and told him I was hungry. I shook
at my desk, weakly, digging my hands into my thighs underneath.

The man, thickset, ordered a baingan masala to my room
from all the way across the city. My mouth remained
in position the whole time I ate and the tomato ran
down the sides of my face and gathered in the
hollow places under my shirt.

There was a little yoghurt treat in the delivery bag.
I brought it to my mouth but could not course it
beyond my teeth. The hot tomato and eggplant heavied my gut.
I smiled as I lobbed the yoghurt ball out the window.
Eight floors down, I do not know if a pedestrian was harmed
by its flight. My nails dug slices into the sweat sheen of my thighs.

The snow melted off my arms into the shuttering
wind, where there were plastic bags snagged on all the branches.
My poor plaid shirt crackled through the gaps between sun-starved trees.
The doe never caught up with me, so I hunted it from the front,
its fawn chasing me for miles. Hunger

bloomed in my gut, a tulip shoot trapped under a 2×4.
When I would have done anything to see a spoon of blue sky,
would have cut off my own legs below the knee for a meal of flies,
in that brown and white place, where daylight blazed up from the ground.

I heard someone shooting at clay nearby so I sat down in the snow
And the mud-red mess of someone’s yard, where the leaves wouldn’t cover me.
I knew I had sewn on the patches for a day like this.

I lay down and let the rest of the time in my lungs leak out and
it was a good, soft idea. The leaves and the fawn
fell down with me and finished their breathing.
The wind filled my mouth with a lust for the soil.
I whispered to myself, hurry.
It will never be this cold again.

Hymns ending in the
pews of the palate, the
               killing fields of the glottis, hurrah.

Now the robbers
 wander out of the room,
               Globus hystericus,
and now the brown shadows on the
Walls shuffle around,
               until they cover you three ways, hold God.

You eat fish as if sewing, sneaking the bones out,
               weaving them back in.
Here is the white, fleshy sea vest you have tailored in and out of
               Death and back.

Elle travaille de la cafetière.                       She’s working from her coffee pot.
She’s out of it.
Elle n’est pas don son assiette.                     She’s not in the plate. She’s not

Nights spent thinking of what I have not eaten
of that daft, impractical cheese I’ve bought
again, soft, flecked with dill.
The packaging is pretty and difficult to penetrate
as if opening a box of jewelry by force,
without the special key
I lower it into the garbage after it molds beyond expectation,
unable to bring knife or scissors to the plastic.
I sit with a hot bowl of oats
until it leaves four bends of a circle on my two legs,
proof of the butter, and the grain, outside my body.

Christine Gosnay's poetry appears in recent issues of DIAGRAM, Beecher's Magazine, The Squaw Valley Review, TheNewerYork, and other publications. She is the editor of The Cossack Review (www.thecossackreview.com) and lives in the Santa Cruz Mountains in California. Find her on twitter @dagny.
9.1 / January 2014