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.
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?