A Song of Apples Falling Over a Cliff

Poetry / Jeremy Radin

:: A Song of Apples Falling Over a Cliff ::

A boy runs, dragging a forest behind him, babbling 
like a newspaper. Tigers file through the underbrush

whispering Yiddish—or what in a child’s dream sounds 
like Yiddish. Between the boy & me, a coffin full of honey

—we dip the bread, the apples, feed each other the sugar 
of years. Once I wore a tiger suit to the supermarket, 

growled up at stacks of cake. If I told you loneliness 
was a coffin built from sugar, what would you say 

with your warm & human mouth? I should tell you 
there’s a city where it always rains. I wish to live 

there. The boy wishes to live anywhere with tigers. 
The boy wishes to run. We were fat very quickly, 

a mountain of milk. The angel perches upon 
the fridge, in this, the room of my adulthood. 

A woman plays guitar & sings a song of apples 
falling over a cliff. Where does the moment go

& my hair? Ah, Jeremychild—there are such 
nothings with which to fill our bellies. Such 

rooms to back out of. Such silences to say.

 

 

From the writer

:: Account ::

For the past ten years, I have been in—and out of—recovery for an eat­ing dis­or­der. I’m a com­pul­sive vol­ume eater, which means I obses­sive­ly want and attempt to eat more than I can eat. As a result of this, I have spent the major­i­ty of my life over­weight, and I’ve let that con­di­tion dic­tate much of my life—I’ve allowed my fat­ness (and the myths I’ve made around my fat­ness) to keep me from inti­ma­cy both phys­i­cal and emo­tion­al, con­nect­ing to my feel­ings, con­nect­ing to the divine, to friends, to fam­i­ly, to part­ners.

The book I’m work­ing on endeav­ors to explore the facets of dis­or­dered eat­ing, body image, and recov­ery through can­dor, humor, warmth, and bewil­der­ment. Eat­ing dis­or­ders are flu­id. They are alive. They shift and adapt and sur­vive. My eat­ing dis­or­der has all the tools at its dis­pos­al that I have—my imag­i­na­tion, intel­li­gence, pow­ers of rationalization—the dif­fer­ence is it doesn’t get tired. What can I use to cre­ate a dia­logue with this tire­less­ness? What is tire­less enough so as to be up to the task? Well, there is god. But I am not par­tic­u­lar­ly reli­gious. And so how do I attempt, in my way, to com­mune with god? Well, there is poet­ry.

Poet­ry has been a remark­ably use­ful, if imper­fect, tool in my recov­ery. It attempts to remain as flu­id, as salta­to­ry, as capa­ble of leap­ing through and around the bounds of log­ic as the eat­ing dis­or­der itself. Poet­ry aims to occu­py the space out­side and beyond logic—the same space an eat­ing dis­or­der occu­pies. When one attempts to engage the eat­ing dis­or­der with log­ic, one becomes quick­ly frus­trat­ed. Often a binge is tied to nothing—it seems to have no ori­gin; it just appears. So how do I meet the eat­ing dis­or­der where it lives? While in treat­ment I lead a poet­ry work­shop in which my fel­low eaters and non-eaters and I wrote odes to foods that ter­ri­fied us. What we learned was that we were not writ­ing odes to the food but to our abil­i­ty to imbue the food with such size and mean­ing. What is an eat­ing dis­or­der if not the sign of a tremen­dous imag­i­na­tion? The capac­i­ty to cre­ate mean­ing out of noth­ing. And what is a poem?

We live in a time and in a country—and a glob­al community—where it is dif­fi­cult for me to con­ceive of the fact that there are peo­ple with­out eat­ing dis­or­ders. I live in Los Ange­les, where I am con­stant­ly bom­bard­ed with imagery that is deeply confusing—on Sun­set Boule­vard, a fifty-foot bill­board of a mod­el with a “per­fect” body next to a fifty-foot bill­board of a dou­ble bacon cheese­burg­er. And now, since the advent of the internet—a kind of por­tal onto a kind of Sun­set Boulevard—these frus­trat­ing mixed mes­sages have been glob­al­ized. How is any­one sup­posed to nav­i­gate pure­ly this most basic of sur­vival func­tions when we are told “eat this to look like this,” and then, not more than a few sec­onds lat­er, “doesn’t this look deli­cious?” Shame over the one inevitably leads to engag­ing in the oth­er: “I can’t look this this so I will eat this; I can’t eat this so I will look like this.” It is as if the food indus­try and beau­ty indus­try are toss­ing us glee­ful­ly back and forth, prof­it­ing not only off our con­fu­sion but, because we have been so fierce­ly shamed for it, our unwill­ing­ness to speak open­ly about this con­fu­sion.

My dream in work­ing on this project is that it makes avail­able more space where men can talk and lis­ten freely, togeth­er about dis­or­dered eat­ing and body image. I say specif­i­cal­ly men because I am a man, and this is the ver­sion of the sto­ry I can tell. Eat­ing dis­or­ders are ram­pant through­out all gen­ders and it is cer­tain­ly more dif­fi­cult, for many rea­sons, being a fat woman in this coun­try than a fat man—but I also believe that there is a dearth of lit­er­a­ture sur­round­ing men and eat­ing and men and their bod­ies. This, I believe, is because men—as emo­tion­al oppressors—have not been forced to evolve emo­tion­al­ly as quick­ly and ful­ly as women, and what women are attuned enough to their feel­ings to speak open­ly about, men are not.

It is a strange and com­plex thing to be a man with an eat­ing dis­or­der in this coun­try. As is so often the case, this com­plex­i­ty is root­ed in tox­ic mas­culin­i­ty. There exists the misog­y­nis­tic con­sid­er­a­tion that an eat­ing dis­or­der is a “woman’s dis­ease,” that for a man to strug­gle with an eat­ing dis­or­der is not only shame­ful in its own right, but emasculating—the idea being that only women could be weak and vain enough to be sus­cep­ti­ble to these con­fu­sions. As a result of this con­sid­er­a­tion many men remain silent about their eat­ing disorders—some to the point of death. Men are com­pul­sive eaters, anorex­i­cs, bulim­ics, exer­cise bulim­ics, orthorex­i­cs, restric­tors, etc. etc. As do so many tools of the patri­archy, this con­sid­er­a­tion hurts men under the guise of a sort of pro­tec­tion. Our silence will not pro­tect us.

Each time I share with friends, write, or speak pub­licly about my eat­ing dis­or­der, fat­ness, etc., a lay­er of shame is shaved off. In fact, I have become deeply grate­ful to my eat­ing dis­or­der for the remark­able dia­logues it has led me to. I wish for more men to enter into these con­ver­sa­tions because I believe that they will not only serve to des­tig­ma­tize dis­or­dered eat­ing and body dys­mor­phia, but that they may grant men a tremen­dous insight into the lives of the peo­ple with whom we will be shar­ing these con­ver­sa­tions, with whom we share this coun­try, this plan­et, and will lead us toward more thought­ful­ness and gen­tle­ness in our day to day encoun­ters with oth­er human beings, and, ulti­mate­ly, with our­selves.

So for any­one who may be strug­gling with food and body image, in secret or not, I say to you: Hel­lo. Let’s talk. I am not through it yet. I may nev­er be. But I am here, and I know you are too. We are not alone.

 

Jere­my Radin is a poet, actor, and teacher. His poems have appeared (or are forth­com­ing) Gulf Coast, The Cort­land Review, The Jour­nal, Vinyl, Pas­sages North, Cos­mo­nauts Avenue, and else­where. He is the author of two col­lec­tions of poet­ry, Slow Dance with Sasquatch (Write Bloody Pub­lish­ing, 2012) and Dear Sal (not a cult press, 2017). He lives in Los Ange­les with his six plants and refrig­er­a­tor. Fol­low him @germyradin.