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George Bilgere

Corn

I woke up this morning and had a bowl of cornflakes. And then I had another. There’s something about cornflakes in the morning that just seems right. And then I had another bowl of cornflakes. I don’t know why. I just like to start the day with corn. Maybe some toast smeared with margarine, which is also made of corn. It’s good to get the corn levels up right from the start. And then I head to work. I live out in the country and one of the pleasures of the day is driving through miles and miles of corn fields on the way to the office. Farmers around here—well, farmers everywhere—don’t grow anything but corn these days. Everyone needs corn. Corn is what it’s all about, and I love seeing the waving stalks of corn. The corn is as high as an elephant’s eye, someone sings on the radio. And it really is.

I’ve got one of those new cars powered by ethanol, which as you may know is made from corn. I have a corn-powered car and it’s yellow. Corn colored. And think to myself, well, since I had cornflakes for breakfast you might say I’m a corn-powered guy driving a corn-powered, corn-colored car through cornfields. But that’s America. That’s the heartland. It’s a land of corn. It’s a cornucopia. After a hard morning in the office I go to McDonald’s for lunch, where I like to have a Big Mac. Cows around here—well, cows everywhere in this country nowadays—are raised on a steady diet of corn, and I like that. It makes the cows bigger. I like the consistency. I mean, I eat the corn. The cows eat the corn. I eat the cows. I sit in my corn-colored, corn-powered car in the McDonald’s parking lot and eat a Big Mac made from a corn fed cow. I wash the cow down with a supersized cup of Coca Cola. Coke is made from corn syrup. Drinking a coke is like drinking corn. And then I have a big bag of Fritos, which are pure corn.

I’m in the corn business, as you might have guessed. All day I sell American corn surpluses to countries around the world: Japan, Spain, Saudi Arabia, France, Germany, India, Africa. These people need our corn starch, our corn syrup, our raw corn products. They need our corn-based material. Your hear folks saying that America doesn’t make anything anymore, that our manufacturing days are long past. But these people are forgetting about corn. When it comes to corn we are number one. Numero uno. I want you to try to imagine a world where there are no nachos, no Fritos, no Ranch Style Doritos, a world without Coke or Pepsi products. Try to imagine going into a CVS where there are no corn products. Did you know the CVS stands for “Corn Variety Stores”? Almost everything in CVS and Walgreen’s is made entirely from corn.

More and more kinds of plastic are made from corn. Think about a world without plastic. It’s just impossible. But you’re not going to have enough plastic to go around if people don’t have corn. Maybe you don’t think about it as much as you should. Maybe you just take it for granted. There’s a good chance your polyester shirt and your slacks are made from corn products. Maybe even your shoes. Think about that next time you drive through a corn field.

I eat so much corn I find myself driven to look at photographs of corn. Corn stalks, or corn on the cob, dripping with corn-based margarine. Plump, corn-fed chicken. Images of corn products—cornography—excite me. The wife makes her famous corn bread. I have a little whiskey made of good corn mash. There’s something about getting drunk on fermented corn that’s like you’re tasting the very essence of corn. Almost like a religious experience. Which reminds me. You know that little wafer the priest puts on your tongue at communion? Corn. Yep, the body of Christ is a corn product. And if that doesn’t make you understand the holy nature of corn I don’t know what will.

Then we all go out to the movies. From corn-based plastic cups we drink cokes made of corn syrup. We have some popcorn with corn-based margarine. The celluloid film itself is made of corn. And the film we watch is, of course, Children of the Corn. It’s a powerful, frightening film, filled with unforgettable images of corn. And at night in bed I dream of floating high above the earth, flying like a bird over endless acres of cornfields. I fly down and land in the fields and eat the pure corn kernels. Then I take to the sky again. I drop my bird excrement, the pure distillation of corn, all over the green breast of the world. I drop my corn seed on the rooftops and backyards and vast sprawling fields of our country. The world is a great explosion of corn, and God looks down and He is happy.

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George Bilgere’s most recent collection of poems is Imperial, from the University of Pittsburgh Press. He won the May Swenson Poetry Award in 2006 for Haywire (Utah State University Press). His poems are heard frequently on Garrison Keillor’s The Writers Almanac, and he was recently a guest on Prairie Home Companion. He eats corn in Cleveland.