“You know the Fore used to eat their own”,
he said to me, with a sweat stained armpit
opened out as he points into the hills
where I can only assume there are people
though I can only see dust jungle
because everything is so unfamiliar to me here
that I am almost blind.
“They’d shake to death, like mad cow disease,
specially the women, cos they had to eat the brains,
men took the good meat”
he wheezes and laughs through a Pall Mall haze.
The guide book lets you know that
missionaries helped eradicate kuru:
eat Jesus, not your dead relatives!
That’s the way to get civilized.
I had Patti Smith in my headphones
that whole trip down the Highlands Highway
potholed road grinding my bones at each jolt
wet steaming heat baking me like a pudding
guilt, both the hunger and the food.
We passed villages with green coffee beans
laid out in sun, bank after bank, drying
they were the only concessions to regularity
oases of rhythm and repetition
all the patterns
merely ciphers to me
my little regular mind searching
for the why which
comes only in system
“you just always seemed
so much happier, Elle,
when things were in order.”
That’s what my father always said.
Occasionally, I find myself laughing
My hands shaking –
is it the earthquake before dying?
have I stomached too much of my family?
Surely it’s just
low blood sugar.