My Appetite - Peter Malakoff
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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

 

Perhaps

 

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

 

But

 

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

 

Then

 

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

 

and

 

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