Industry Prize Runner-Up: Polyphagia by Brian Tierney

Our Industry Prize judges were equally admirable of Brian Tierney’s poetry as they were of Gabriel Kruis’—they both tied for second place. Today we publish Tierney’s poem, “Polyphagia,” a wonderful and vulnerable meditation on the struggle of an eating disorder. Next week, Kruis’ “Bosky Farm.”




—then my body said I do. And so indulgence came to me
++week after week, opening its hand like a late-nite diner
menu, impossible with options. Page after page so many

++words for appetite, so many preparations, the simplest
white plate, spent bones in a bramble, flies’ eyes glistening
++on the gristle, it did not disgust me, the thought;

it only made me want more. How many ways can you fill
++a hole, I once asked a shrink, it depends on the hole
I think, & he scribbled something down, as if taking my order.



++++++++++++++++++++++all that time me
thinking it was hunger, all that time, seeking some shadow,
++when it was a shadow seeking, going on within me,

wanting me to accede, at last, to its filling—the shape, that is,
++that traced my shape, which I fell through, fell into
at first, a skater through ice, &, after a while, my body like

++a sponge swelling in descent beneath the frigid water
flooding what I’d mistaken for craving, each crook of it, each
++living, absorbent, coral pockmark calling & calling

with their little mouths open like newborn robins. . . until,
++each time this happened, compulsion became one weight
sinking through invisible dimensions, like a fathometer

++echo on a mission, testing limits, taking measurements
of emptiness to see at what depth even god turns around.



in the year it began I met a man I still think of often,
++the tip of his cane staccato tapping in a triangle park;
& the tail of my passing-by must’ve caught on his stare

++like a shirt on a nail, because I back-stepped abruptly
to hear-out his offering: a stick of mint gum for a Marlboro
++gold cig, which I took, sort of reverently. He said hazel

green, into my eyes, like my mom’s. Then quoted Phoenicians
++& told me how she had died, when he was young,
from a different hunger, an appetite made of other winters,

++other summers—extremes; some of which he took
with him, he smiled. And I thought of mom’s uncle dead
++beneath a porch with a bottle of bourbon & a head

of lettuce when a demo-crew found him; my aunt Tricia
++starving her skeleton to see herself more clearly. . .
Turns out rock bottom’s not a problem, he said, when you begin
+++++++++++++++++++++++without a bottom



Brian Tierney

Brian Tierney's poetry and prose has appeared in or is forthcoming in New England Review, Kenyon Review, AGNI, Harvard Review, Boston Review and others. A former Wallace Stegner Fellow in poetry at Stanford, and a graduate of the Bennington College MFA Writing Seminars, he is the recipient of the 2018 George Bogin Memorial Award from the Poetry Society of America. In 2013, Narrative Magazine named him among it's "30 Below 30" emerging writers. He currently lives in Oakland, Ca., and teaches poetry at The Writing Salon.

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