Kirsten Sundberg Lunstrum

Eating My Words

I’d prefer my food served soft. Apple-bottomed pastry with a flaky crust. Buttered slab of warm bread, just baked and weeping its yeast-scented steam. A cloud of mashed potatoes — that fruit that sees, that is buried deep and must be upturned.

But instead what I often get is boned or burned or brined in a vinegar that draws my face into itself like age passing through me mouth-to-asshole, too quick. I do what I can with it anyway — use the salmon’s own bone to pick the last scraps of its meat from my teeth. (Don’t we all?)

Here, see: when I open my mouth, the dark room opens up too. The old dog comes to sit at my feet. We two begin to eat.

I think: I’m such a pig! I keep rolling in the mud I make, turning up the soil of my own waste for good grubs.

But later I correct myself: No — not a pig, a mollusk. Mouth full of sand. Dull tongue and no heart. I am all nerve — or nerves. Yes! It’s the shell that opens, not the door, not the dirt, not the hand. I am dressed in phosphate, not carbonate. Pearl and eye and teeth. Rock under shovel’s blade. Knife against the only plate that’s been set for me.

Sometimes I question myself. Is this healthy? I have to wonder. This constant forking myself open? If I keep gnawing at everything like this, how long can it be until I bite off my own fingers? Until I start spitting teeth like seeds into my own palm? I’ll be honest: I’m tired. I’m full, if not satisfied. At my feet, the dog’s gums are going bloody.

Still, I can’t stop myself. This meal is the only one I know. I pull back my chair and I sit down and I sit down and I sit down. I pat the poor dog’s head. Then, again, I bow my head for the grace: Bless this all to my use. I open wide. I bite. I swallow hard.