My appetite pulls in redwoods,
pulls in their yellowed needles and their green needles,
pulls in the squirrels that run their branches like freeways,
pulls in the forester who marks the tree:
his flannel arm, his tattooed bicep, the hairs of his armpits.
Pulls in the tuna and Swiss sandwich he had for lunch,
pulls in the sweat of his back, pulls in his paycheck and his boot laces.

My appetite swells along the ground beneath his feet,
pulls in the spoor of the cougar who lives in our ravine,
pulls in the rotting carcass of the timber rattler with its two remaining rattles,
pulls in the boulders tumbling down the sand bank by the road,
disturbed by the horse trailers and the lumber truck.

My appetite devours the lumber truck, devours the boulders and the road,
rolls like an avalanche toward the one-lane bridge.
My appetite spits out the bridge and drinks the creek,
swims up river leaving mud and boulders, only, in its wake.
Mud and swamp grass and abandoned tires,
Coke cans, cigarette wrappings, one black sneaker,
one kidnapped pink flamingo half buried in the mud.

My appetite flows into town.
Its stomach rumbles as it flows on past the lumber yard, past The Brewery,
clambers up the spillway, ducks its head under the bridge.
Kneels underneath the bridge like a troll,
puts one arm up to catch the Round Table Pizza delivery jeep,
spits out the delivery boy, spits out the anchovies.
My appetite floats upstream on the fuel from the pizzas,
stretches out one long elastic arm to Coffeetopia
to filch one extra-large zabaglione gelato,
a double latte, a half dozen biscotti and a lemon scone.
Then my appetite floats back downstream again,
catches hold on the bank behind The Brewery,
pulls itself up to the road streaming water, mud,
the paper gelato cup, the plastic spoon,
streaming scone crumbs and most of the now-soggy biscotti,
leaves them like footprints as it clambers up the street.

My appetite makes a left turn into The Brewery,
makes a detour around the menu board
and the notices for tonight’s open poetry reading.
Then my appetite puts on a coat of civility, puts on a shroud of sociability.
My appetite shrinks to the size of a chair, pulls up the chair and sits on it.

I watch other appetites roll down from cars, shrink down the street,
negotiate our same corners, and fold into empty chairs
until we have four tables pulled together–
twelve chairs supporting twelve compacted, contained,
skin and bone-packaged human appetites.

Our tongues hide in their caves like eels.
Our hungers rumble in our stomachs like bean casseroles.
Our colossal capacities squeeze inside our skins like boils about to burst.
On the stage, the microphone stands on the lectern
like a needle set to lance our boils.

Our appetites make do with food and tea and coffee,
onion rings and Chinese chicken salads.
Our appetites pretend that this is what they’re here for.
Then my appetite waits for other appetites,
as one by one they ascend the stage.
My appetite waits for its turn,
then climbs up on the stage,
rolls one edge over onto the microphone to pop its skin,
and then my appetite squirts out in one fine stream–
like milk from a nipple, water from a water gun.
Like water through a dike that a boy’s finger has been pulled from.
My appetite turned brown from the churning of river water, latte,
zabaglione, rattlesnakes and gray squirrels.
The red of blood,
the yellow of the redwood pollen,
anise seeds ground down to dust, turn brown.
My appetite thrusts out in its fine liquid stream,
but tries to isolate from this brown river the colors that went into it:
red apple,
the fine parchment and black mosaic of the timber rattler,
the soft pink of the neighbor’s tongue who told of it, coiled, on her deck.
Cold dull metal of the shovel that she swung down on it.
Seven silver swings of the shovel blade
coming up pink,
then red
with the skin of rattler clinging to it.

My appetites refined again into their separate elements:
one anise seed,
one petal of a swamp grass blossom,
one molecule of river boulder,
one hair of the squirrel that bit my sister.
One grain of redwood pollen,
one eyeball of anchovy,
the dust of the road,
the bend of the creek,
a single vowel from the word
that names the bend of the creek.
The space in the vowel from the bend of the creek.
The dream that dreams
in the space in the vowel
from the bend of the creek.
The appetite that swells the dream
that lies cradled
in the space in the vowel
from the word that names
the bend in the creek.
The appetite that brings us here.
The appetite we wrap our skin around like clothes.
The appetite that drives us
and that we run from
and run to.
The appetite we push down
but which squeezes out around us
in spite of our best efforts.
The appetite we sense in each other
and hear from each other
and force into and out of our conversations.
The appetite that lies waiting for us
behind the cold glass windows of stores,
the appetite that coils in cooking pots
and curls out in the steam from cooking pots.
The appetite of the Barbie Doll
and the erector set
and the jigsaw puzzle
and the bouncing ball of the jacks game.
The appetite that sits under the Christmas tree
wrapped up in green paper and red ribbon.
The appetite that hides in our typewriter keys
and in the tips of the fingers that tap them.
The appetite that lies dormant in our gonads,
that jumps in our semen,
that sleeps in an egg.
The appetite that kinks out from the curling iron
and chews itself from the tips of our fingernails
and spins itself from our feet
during a jungle rhythm
or a southern reel.
The appetite that pipes from the end of a flute
and shakes off the edges of a tambourine.
The appetite that is sealed in a tube of paint,
carried by a brush to the canvas
where it dances its own dance.
The appetite that vibrates in a vocal cord,
trembles on the fingers of a lover,
swims on the tongue of a nursing infant,
catapults off the slingshot of a seven-year-old boy.

Our appetites lined up on our paper
where we have assembled them in unaccustomed order.
Our appetites better brought to the stage in a brown paper bag,
jumbled like penny candies,
or tumbled over each other like a junk drawer.

Appetites that can never be catalogued
or collected in their entirety.
Appetites that can never fully be defined
or neatly wrapped up in a moral
or a surprise ending.
Appetites that can never be satisfied.
Because our appetites want everything,
and gaining everything, reach out for more.


for dVerse Poets Pub:Looking for Sustenance

to read other poems on this prompt, go HERE.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized on by .

About lifelessons

My blog, which started out to be about overcoming grief, quickly grew into a blog about celebrating life. I post daily: poems, photographs, essays or stories. I've lived in countries all around the globe but have finally come to rest in Mexico, where I've lived since 2001. My books may be found on Amazon in Kindle and print format, my art in local Ajijic galleries. Hope to see you at my blog.

20 thoughts on “Appetite

    1. lifelessons Post author

      I made more money from this poem than I’ve made on any other single piece of writing. I entered it in the Tennessee Writer’s Guild National Poetry Prize competition and won first prize. The judges said, for my pure audacity. I spent the $500 I won to fly to Nashville from Mexico and read it in the Senate chamber of the state capital. I had to shorten it to fit the ten minute time limit.. ha. I hardly ever enter competitions or even send things in unless asked for them. I decided to just bite the bullet and send work in to ten different competitions and “Little” magazines and journals. This one paid off. Then I went back to my former lazy habits. Not of writing but of submitting.

      Liked by 3 people

  1. msjadeli

    Judy, as I read your poem, the thought of the words snaking down the screen came to mind. When I think of world-swallowing archetypes, I think of Ouroboros, the snake that swallows its own tail. I LOVE THIS POEM in all of its imagery while it sustains its concept.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. msjadeli

        You are very welcome. Your poem deserved to win a prize, and then you got to present it to legislators? Such a wonderful experience for you. Hoping it moved them to greater appreciation for nature and what human appetites can do to it.



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