A Brief History of Hunger

By Mary Jo Firth Gillett

Up from the mire of the primordial soup
came one-celled, tiny cavernous bits
whose innards knew a hollow ache only cured
when their shape-shifting borders engulfed
smaller bits, and came a world more complicated,
the paramecium with its oral groove,
the surprising planaria—nick its frontispiece
and the split becomes two hungry heads!—
then came, as ever, competition begetting variation,
to move or not to move, that was the question—
whether it was more propitious to see
with eyes multitudinous or on stalks or both,
whether it was better to be safely anchored,
waiting in camouflage, or to mount an assault,
evolution’s choices simple, almost biblical—seek
and ye shall find or lurk with bait in the hope that all
will come to him who waits, and then came
specialized beaks and teeth, fanciful horns
and coloration prompting procreation,
as well as a multitude of eating adaptations—
the water bird’s fused nostrils, air sacs in head and neck
to absorb impact as the feathered darts, pillaging
angels, plummet—and came homo sapiens with a myriad
of tastes and ways to cook—sear and braise, sauté
and soufflé, pickle and brine—came table manners, the urge
to gorge, to purge, came sorbet and gourmet, foods
delectable and indigestible, epicurean delights, food fights,
and all the ravenous mouths of tomorrow and tomorrow.

Mary Jo Firth Gillett‘s poetry collection, Soluble Fish, won the Crab Orchard Series First Book Award (SIU Press). She’s also published four award-winning chapbooks, most recently Dance Like A Flame (Hill-Stead Museum). Poems have appeared in The Southern Review, Gettysburg Review, Harvard Review, Southern Poetry Review, New Ohio Review, Salamander, and other journals as well as the Poetry Daily and Verse Daily sites. Her MFA is from Vermont College.

Originally published in NOR 22.

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