Catriona Wright | DIETARY RESTRICTIONS, Vallum Award for Poetry Honourable Mention


At night I dream of performing polygraph tests
on pomegranates. By day I watch Tampopo and think slurp, slurp.

Poco a poco I even begin to feel the miso-loaded mist on my face,
to taste the universe distilled to a rococo so-and-so of noodles and beef.

I can’t even seek the brief, shame-inflected relief
of bragging. The whole point of this penitence is to be humble, humbled.

When I visit my ancestor’s shrine I find it closed
and encased in a giant yellow dome. No note. Nothing to explain

why my past has been replaced with a Cyclops’ lemon drop.
My strength is diminishing fast. I ask a four-year-old girl to eat

a blueberry muffin in front of me and describe the sensation.
When she says yummy and sweet, I slap her,

then fall to my knees and beg forgiveness, kissing
her feet and relishing the coconut sunscreen sting

on my lips. Bit by bit the hunger lessens. Water’s subtleties
reveal themselves and I stop picturing the gods

wearing aprons. Of course I slip up from time to time, peruse
the latest reviews of it-joints, read the menus,

all those menacingly homespun promises: Drones deliver
skewers of pork honk and yolo yam slammers to your table.

Meals come with sides of triple-fried panopticorn fritters and grits.
After a self-flagellation quickie, the drool dries

and I can return to prayer. As my bones rise to the surface
I receive compliments, envy, concern, then threats

to shove a feeding tube down my throat,
just like they did to my Aunt Gertrude

or was that Eleanor? I don’t, can’t remember
anymore. Boredom and doubt and history, invasive beetles,

have bored out my family tree, and now the only thing tethering me
to this life is self-discipline, this devotion to hunger. I am still impure

but improving my ability to discern the saints who deserve songs
from those who deserve slaps. I must admit that

if butterscotch rained from the skies, I would join the riots
and streak down the street, syrup,

hot and thick and fawn-coloured, speckling my shoulders.
I would roll in the gutters

until every inch of skin
was covered in stiffening sugar.


Author’s Bio

CATRIONA WRIGHT is a writer, editor, and teacher. Her poems have appeared in PRISM International, Prairie Fire, Rusty Toque, LemonHound, Best Canadian Poetry 2015, and elsewhere. She is the poetry editor at The Puritan and a co-founder of Desert Pets Press, a chapbook press.