Poem of Eating, with Shipworms and Mukbang

~ Lithoredo abatanica

One of my favorite parts in Woman
Warrior is when a bird leads the girl
deep into the mountains, where an old
couple who are really Jedis or Kung
Fu masters train her to become

a great warrior. She fasts for days
and days then eats only ferns or moss
or shoots, drinks only dew or melted snow,
which sounds more extreme than keto.
When her hunger is almost unbearable,

she either hallucinates or a rabbit appears
and jumps into the fire, sacrificing itself
so she might eat every part of it, return
to the world strengthened, and vanquish
all her country's foes. I don't know

how she does it: how she demolishes entire
armies and rescues women that have been kept
in basements or dungeons, then returns to her
village, serene as can be, to take up again
the ordinary life of wife and daughter.

When I was a thin and scabby-
kneed schoolgirl prone to nosebleeds
and allergies, you could see clear
across the roofs of neighboring houses
to the parish church and adjacent

elementary school, and tell
when students were dismissed for the day.
Then my mothers would whip up an afternoon
snack: usually hotdog slices piled on a plate
of fried rice, with a bottle of orange soda

or Coke. They'd sit me down as soon as I
came through the door; I ate and struggled
to finish everything, not sparing the last
grain, as they stood sentinel on each side.
Heroic eating, scholars call it—that trope

in novels where immigrant characters pick
the flesh of fish and fowl close to the bone,
then boil these to get at the nourishing
marrow. Neck bones and gizzards, chicken
feet, yards of innards washed clean

to make garlands packed with meat
and onions and blood—Which is to say,
all the parts that others deem savage,
though abroad they might try haggis
and a wee dram. This is not

to be confused with Mukbang, those
YouTube cooking/eating broadcasts
where in one sitting, the hosts push
enough noodles and eggs and hot sauce
into their mouths to feed a dozen men.

Some of the most amazing are petite
women like Yuka Kinoshita, who has more
than five million followers and can pack
anywhere between five and twenty-five
thousand calories into her wispy

frame. Since I've become someone
who saves all the leftovers in the fridge,
I'm not sure how to think of this kind
of extravagance. While I take pleasure
in food and flavor, I like to think

that eating could have some kind
of quiet purpose beyond itself—
perhaps like rock-eating shipworms
who tunnel with ease through limestone
as if it were a loaf of sourdough

or an apple: changing in time
a river's course, leaving behind a hive
of hollow cells, tiers of capsule hotel-
like spaces where snails and crabs
and fish could take up residence.

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