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Moonbelly

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This poem first ran in the Late Winter 2009 edition of Grub Street Grackle

What an appetite! Moonbelly would have eaten everything—earth, sky, ocean, stars, lakes, comets—swallowed all of it, given a lifetime long enough.
That’s how awfully violent, hopeless love afflicted him: lifelong love as makes men empty, turns terrestrial hearts to an alien element.
Food’s the stuff when you’re hungry, but lovers’ stomachs want thicker fare: stones, mortar, concrete, iron—all inedible objects are lovers’ aliment.
So they starve, so what’s new? Isn’t that the oft-repeated and age-old theme of lays, odes, sonnet cycles, ghazals, and hasn’t that song been sung enough?

Here’s the difference: Moonbelly’s hunger wasn’t metaphor—no pale mime of real gut hunger. No, he wanted the world in his stomach, bodily.
Having once heard Veronica singing, seen the way that her songs would load her rash, soft, smile with echoes, suddenly sharpening every entity,
nothing else but to harbor the whole—which saturated with those rich strains, now ran him through with aching emptiness, longing of boundless quantity—
could have satisfied Moonbelly’s craving, quelled his ravening. Next best was a piecemeal banquet, downing sequently one then another victual.

He ate the nearest things first: several thousand meals, compacted in one night’s dining, was what his immediate prospect amounted to: broiled asparagus,
steak and french fried potatoes was what he’d made for dinner, but could not sate him: he had yet to eat his plate, and the place-mat and table under it.
Still unsatisfied, Moonbelly stood with cracked alacrity, ate his chair and tore his dining room to pieces and—taking no time to ponder it—
threw it down, in a frenzy of biting chewing, swallowing. Next day, though he was still hungry, scads of sodium bicarb and foul saxifragous

oils were all he could think of consuming—things conducive to sound digestion. But no good. It turned out Moonbelly’s gastric constriction called for a
stronger treatment. He roamed in a bloated craze, partaking of each thing which he thought might have medicinal properties: boiled aconitum, milk thistle,
dandelions, banana peel extract, mercury by the fistful, bacta, birch bark, frogs, ammonia, gerin oil, terrigen crystals, darthisol,
uncut ginger root, buckets of fresh volcanic ash—
he ate all these, but ate not least the acrimonious gum of the laurus camphora.

All the same, the unbearable constipation, dyspepsia, heartburn, retching, bloat, aches, gas, and reflux kept him as sick as a whole infirmary.
Still, his hunger had nothing abated. Now—no hope in his song-wrecked heart of eased pain, nor contentment—at random Moonbelly stuffed his orifice.
Almost half of the town he had swallowed whole, or chewed, or somewhat nipped before Moonbelly’s mad campaign could be stopped, and he exiled, shorn of his
access to his Veronica. Still, if music be, as they say, love’s food, yet this love needed no more sustenance than the remotest memory—

though, of course, if its food is the fruit of geological stock, Moonbelly had his fill: for now his diet was nothing but stones. A carat or
two at first was a mouthful, but soon his intake stoutened.

Now in those days, a blood ore forest covered untold expanses of country, whence if it
can be true what was said of it, men of iron spirit in times long past had come, intent on taking hold of the world, but a fateful deficit,
not of might, but of libido, cut their conquest short—for their empire, though successful, fell in time for want of an heir to become its heritor.

There stood columns or trunks of a crimson hue, so high that a man might wonder if their roots (or their foundations) were sunk into earth or firmament.
Thither Moonbelly’s way was inclined, as though magnetically drawn; five hundred miles at least he had to travel, until the blood-red horizoning
thickness split into towering pieces, looming suddenly each by each and cast rock-hard obscurity over Moonbelly’s rabid reasoning.
Huge with weeks of unceasing intemperate gorging, swaying now towards these piles of doom-frought stone, he eyed them just as a conqueror surveys his armament.

Now I’ll tell you the ending: our hero knocked one over on his way in—his girth outstripped his inner sense of his body’s extension. Thousands of
pillars toppled like tenpins, and pitched in all directions—our man had no recourse but stretching out his jaws as he never had done and swallowing
whole each copious morsel of this his most cacophonous meal. Stones into his mouth slammed hard—he gulped, his cheeks and his belly aflare and billowing.
Still, the forest was tumbling around him—fallen columns were heaped up higher with each passing moment. Finally, one of these pillars, propped on a

pile behind it that served as a fulcrum, see-sawed up, and it caught Moonbelly by both legs and catapulted him skyward and into orbit.
He flies there even today, and at times stoops low and blood-red, and draws out from the earth faint ghosts of his Veronica’s song with his gluttonous gravity.

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The Grackle is a production of the 501(c)(3) nonprofit Imagine Dallas Literary Arts, Inc.