Throwback Saturday from issue 296.2

Devi Sen Laskar

Devi Sen Laskar was a finalist for the James Hearst Poetry Prize in the Spring of 2011 and was featured in issue 296.2 of The North American Review.

From the author: This poem was written in response to a joke I'd overheard between two women chatting in the check out line ahead of me at the grocery store, their baskets brimming with frozen foods and boxed pasta, cheap candy and canned cheese: "you are what you eat."

The All-Saints, Ga., Overeaters Support Group

First we talk about watermelons—
a modern, American reference
to family picnics, seed-spitting contests,
abating a thirst for summer love
by eating weightless pink flesh.

Then our study of the Greek myths
seeps through our tongues as pomegranates
are hurled onto our invisible
table, pungent olives, golden
apples, blood oranges, Medea.

Someone comments on sorrow
as an appetite suppressant—
death provokes fasting, in some cases
a strict diet of bitter remembrance
until the taste for life returns.

Others blurt out hors d'oeuvres stories
at the theatre, cocktail parties, movies.
And at weddings, how the cake is too sweet,
the toasting champagne always falls flat
by the time the waiter reaches their glasses.

We discuss the reluctant meals we swallow
when there is no money leftover after rent:
white bread that's three days old, noodles,
peanut butter without the jelly,
lentil soups with rice, bags of popcorn.

No one mentions why we come here,
the way we slide into our chairs, batter
stealing home, without notice, without
admitting that we want to souffle
our bodies from landfills to temples.

We laugh at the staple of fairy tales:
apples poisoned by jealousy,
gingerbread houses, cooked goose,
blackbird pies, cooling porridge, stone
soup, beanstalks that lead to giant feasts.

Then someone mumbles a fable about
the seven sins but I am too far
away to hear it, a joke that
I don't understand because I can't
get past gluttony and avarice.

Finally, a discourse on Vegas:
the incandescent dramas, all night
slots and sex, currency exchange
and love, how breakfast is served
at these twenty-four hour buffets.

It's about choice, I say. The use of buffet
is to speak selection; the hierarchy
of egg dishes, for example:
how Benedict is better than poached,
the sauce enhancing the runny yolk.

No, a voice calls out from the circle:
Buffet is all-you-can-eat,
it's tasting a lot of everything,
eating it all. Freedom and acceptance.
It's taking the whole world into your heart.

The hour is up and I am hungry.

Devi S. Laskar is a native Tar Heel who holds an MFA in creative writing from Columbia University, has worked as a reporter covering crime and government for newspapers in North Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Illinois and Hawaii; and is at work on a book of stories.