top of page
My Appetite - Peter Malakoff

My Appetite

A life and death struggle is going on outside my window


It's two o' clock in the morning, some animal is cornered, growling and hissing. . .


Another is excitedly trying to kill it


It's dark and I can't see, even with a flashlight


and no loud or shouted sounds I make break the checkmate


Their movements are quick and abrupt


sudden sweepings of tail and paw


daggers of snapping


There is no such thing as pity for them


It is a night sacrifice




McDonald's is the front room of an abattoir


the pig squeals and whines


and wants very badly to live


Some say that even vegetables don't want to be eaten


But this is not a salad party outside my window tonight


Somehow, to my sensibilities, it's different


Tonight's meal awakens a slumbering uneasiness


Unlike those outside


I have pity


a strange and uniquely human emotion


a sorrow felt for anothers suffering


a sympathy for another being, for its fate


And in situations like tonight I am confused


It seems I don't know who to pity


the cornered and defensive


or the confident killer


And then I suddenly realize: This pity is for myself, for my own suffering


This pity is the realization of my own destiny, my selfishness



Everything is eating and being eaten


One of the meanings of God or Brahman for the Hindus is the All-Devourer


One capable of devouring all things




it is the unconscious re-enactment of this great feast


in which we all participate as murdered and murderer


that causes us to place the theme and ritual of sacrifice


in the center of all the worlds religions




Freud said that neurotics repeat instead of remembering


They repeat an experience with which they were overpowered in their lives


An experience so overwhelming that it was repressed, avoided, not digested, assimilated, escaped . . .


and as a result of that repression


they re-enact it, ritually, over and over


the psyche trying to experience it, again and again


in a myriad of different forms




And in some same way


we find the idea of eating and being eaten, horrifying, frightening, tremendous, sublime


And like neurotics we re-enact it, unconsciously


In my anxiety I give their passion, story and meaning


I create religion out of their suffering


I make theatre out of death


I paint cave walls and mark pieces of paper


I Bang the drum and sing




In towers of ambition and houses of hiding


With art and artifact


I have pulled the blanket of pity over my eyes


and found metaphors for my great fear



But perhaps


this is one of the obligations of a poet


To show the great Emperor Metaphor is wearing no clothes over his naked gospel


To remember, that like these four-pawed ones outside tonight,


we are all eater and eaten in this desperate struggle for life


Unlike these furry beasts, my fear comes to me all alone in my room


full of anxiety


even while the mouth that will take my head


still has no face


I never see the face of those I eat


Someone else has performed the murder for me


I only sanction the act when I eat




A poet remembers that hamburger is the flesh of a dead cow


That fear is more native than suspected


and God is a three letter word




There was a gravedigger, who had dug graves for almost fifty years.


One day a young man asked him


"You have been digging graves for longer than I have been alive.


What is the most amazing thing you have seen in all that time?"


The gravedigger answered


"The most amazing thing I have ever seen, is that every day I bury people here


and everyday, I see people acting as if they were never going to die."



Once I was hiking in the mountains in back of Santa Barbara, far back on the Sisquoc River


I had come across the river and was ascending the bank, when I glimpsed something tossing about on the ground


As I approached closer


I saw a small snake which had wrapped itself around a larger bird


and sunk its fangs into the breast of the bird


The bird still had one of its wings and both its legs outside the coils of the snake


and every few moments the bird would thrash about


desperately trying to get free


I took off my pack and sat down to watch them


At first I felt sorry for the bird


It seemed about to be killed and eaten


As I watched for another fifteen minutes or more


I thought about the snake and how it too had to eat




I thought about taking a stick and unwinding the coils of the snake from around the bird


But why should I help either of them?


(Click here for a story on this dilemma from the Mahabharata)


The struggle went on


I decided to break the deadlock


I decided to help the bird


I got a long stick and slowly and cautiously started to unwind the coils of the snake from around the bird


I could see the wide-eyed stares of the reptile and the bird


both of which would have fled from me under "normal" circumstances


It was a strange sort of 'menage a trois'


We all watched and felt each other


As I continued to unwind the coils, all of an instant


the snake withdrew its fangs from the breast of the bird and struck out at me


In that same instant, the bird broke free and flew off


The snake quickly disappeared into the bushes


The bird left without thanks


The snake left without any blasphemy against me


I left with my pity, my fear, my terrible truth, my dilemma




my appetite



"This is a dreadful and transitional place. Accept it as such. Love God.


Be consumed by adoration. But do not make moral judgements."


-Da Loveananda

bottom of page