Famously, fifty three and a half hot dogs,
Buns included, were swallowed in twelve minutes
At Coney Island, the beach packed with people
Transfixed by that brief, marvelous appetite.
Wonders, for sure, those numbers and the workings
Of the body to accept them, a strangeness
Like the swords and fire down the throats at sideshows,
But now there’s an alphabetical roster
Of records for quantity and speed, starting
With asparagus, six pounds in ten minutes,
Followed by beef tongue, bologna, burritos,
The beautiful simplicity of buffet.
Alliterations of the edible fill
The page: cabbage and candy, connoli, corn,
And the connotative mention of cow brains,
Fifty-seven of them in fifteen minutes
By the same phenom who Hoovered those hot dogs.
Matzo balls, mayonnaise, meat pies—suddenly,
The weight of eating mesmerizes like breasts,
And I remember my single fling with food,
Choosing goldfish, live ones, and betting with friends
Before taking them down with water to win
Ten dollars for a dozen in a minute,
My unrecorded record for childishness.
Look, there are mouths for stones and metal and glass,
Things to be more careful with than tamales,
No limit to what we’re willing to swallow—
Paragraphs of protest, a declaration
Of love, promises, dreams. Ceaselessly, we can
Listen for our sentences washed back with spit.
If we stay quiet, holding our breath, we might
Hear the infinity of words within us.
Gary Fincke has had poems appear in numerous journals, including Alaska Quarterly Review, Beloit Poetry Journal, Gettysburg Review, Harper's, Kenyon Review, Ploughshares, Prairie Schooner, and Shenandoah. He has published more than a dozen books of poetry and fiction.