All-You-Can-Eat Romance

The Herscher Project’s April topic is “Food for the Soul.” I normally use food as a positive force in my literature, using it to bring people together, to experience joy, and to create comfort. However, food can also be used for so many negative things–to fill a hole caused by sorrow, to stave off boredom, to tamp down rage. I got to thinking about that plus the mindless excess in places ranging from The Cheesecake Factory to buffets like Golden Corral, places where people gorge themselves past the point of good sense.

I then began asking myself what those from the past might think about such a sight, and the line from William Wordsworth’s poem “The World is too Much With Us” came to mind. Granted, his poem bemoans the fact people were too far removed from nature and caught up in the trappings of mankind’s technological world, but I thought the statement was applicable to people simple shoveling in as much as they can without paying attention to (or perhaps enjoying) any of it. The result is the first draft you see here.

***

All-You-Can-Eat Romance

Wordsworth would be aghast, I’m sure, at the sight

of our getting and spending, our caloric rivalry of Rome.

Certainly, he’d turn up his refined Romantic nose

at sneezeguards standing sentinel between consumer

and consumed and the golden halo of heat lamps, pendulous

angels supplying warmth to an endless parade

of entrées basking in their own bain maries.

                          *

Coleridge would no doubt become his own doomed

ancient mariner, his deep musings an aesthetic albatross

around his neck as he was compelled to explain

the definition of poetry to patrons concerned

with eating all and tasting nothing. After all,

how can the masses of mass quantities

grasp the pleasure of solitude and musing

behind a frosted window pane

with two hot bars and a dessert table

left to be devoured?

                         *

Blake alone might rejoice in his idiosyncratic

heart to see a place where no children hunger

and black/white, Jew/Gentile, she/he, high/low

eat from the same deep fried cornucopia, a testament

to liberté, égalité, fraternité worthy of engraving.

But would he know the sight of such excess

could pinpoint precisely where his palace of wisdom

may be found?