April 5, 2017
At the Johnsonville Bratwurst Eating Competition—Sheboygan, Wisconsin, 2006

—Derek Mong
Posted in celebration of National Poetry Month

Gentlemen, let’s prep our guts
                                                        for uncut sausage links,
fan bibs beneath our chins, then turn to the Jumbo-Dog-
A-Tron (it burps
                               every rich minute down) and wait
for the tale of the plate to thunder through our stomachs—
its moral is simple:
                                    in America so much

world can be understood as fits down your gullet, or
if we translate into our sponsor’s speech—
                                                                              start EATING!
And a rush of teeth shakes the stage, and beer foam cascades
from paper cups, while somewhere
                                                                 a paramedic waits
smoking Camels. But you, dear Reader, you know today

won’t take the cake for wastage—
                                                              however fast we mash
brats into our maws, however quick the announcer’s
wit (these meatheads
                                        sure can hot dog!) no one’s quite outpaced
the metaphor an eating bout presents for our coast-
to-coast approach (sixty seconds down!)
                                                                          to abundance:

let’s consume it! Imagine each of these sausages
is an old growth pine
                                       and we’ve gnawed away ocean views
for half of California. Or picture them as mile-
posts, as railroad ties
                                       and we’ve crossed the prairie twice (eight
minutes left!) and still been hungry. You’d think this thought might

lend us pause, but give a man a bucketful
                                                                            of brats,
and he won’t just eat for a day, he’ll find there’s nothing 
he can’t swallow.                                               
                                Sure, folks starve for lack of what will stain
our shirts, and the Brits build cars that run like cordless (five
minutes of brat love left!) toasters.
                                                                And I’ve traveled there.

And I’ve come home to a TV on, my sprinklers wet,
and highways I’ll follow
                                             toward a shopping plaza.     
Nothing felt any more out of place than fifty states
and a gas station
                                on every corner. Which explains
why I’m sitting beside a bald guy who once out-ate

a bear and he’s pulling past
                                                   (two minutes left!) the teen
who can almost digest marbles, and I’ve stopped chewing—
for if excess
                            is in my blood, if Wal-Mart followed
a path blazed by the wagon train, then I might as well
enjoy it.
                  So let’s focus now on the Jumbo-Tron.

Let’s watch bear man go for bulk or broke (thirty seconds
left!) and forget how far we’ve come
                                                                  from kosher. Let’s watch
the screen divide, zoom down on these mouths, dark as dueling
oubliettes above us.
                                      Kids wave foam fingers bearing
their favorite eater’s name; the screen tells us “Size Matters

When It’s Your Stomach!” then starts (five!)
                                                                                  the final countdown.
Let’s remember (four!) the stakes today: one golden brat,
one lifetime
                        supply (three!) of hot dogs. Let’s join the crowd
in ridiculing (two!) the loser: hey snack-attack!
Hey ya bite-size chump! (one!) Go eat
                                                                       (we’re done!) your heart out!

 
—Derek Mong (Montgomery County)

This poem is from Other Romes (Saturnalia Books, 2011).

Derek Mong is the author of two poetry collections from Saturnalia Books, Other Romes (2011) and The Identity Thief (forthcoming, 2018), and a forthcoming chapbook of Latin adaptions, In the Shadow of the Scrivener’s Quill (Two Sylvias Press, 2017). The Byron K. Trippet Assistant Professor of English at Wabash College, he holds degrees from Stanford University and the University of Michigan. He blogs at Kenyon Review Online and reviews poetry for the Gettysburg Review. New work is forthcoming in the Kenyon ReviewPleiades, and Blackbird. His website is www.derekmong.com.

Poetry Prompt: A Community Tradition
What interesting community tradition have you observed or participated in? Does your local town or city have an annual festival event, contest, or parade? Does it celebrate or reenact a historical event? Write a poem that describes this tradition and delves into its possible significance. You might imagine yourself a participant, even if you have only observed the event.

Indiana Humanities is celebrating National Poetry Month by sharing a poem and prompt every day in April. Indiana Poet Laureate Shari Wagner selected these poems and wrote the prompts.

Posted In: Poetry