I’ve written quite a few poems about the pleasures of food and drink, and I’m quite unapologetic about that. Poetry can address the most mundane subjects, just as it can the most high-flown, spiritual musings. Occasionally, you come across a subject that has potential for combining the material and the spiritual, as in my poem “Food for Thought”, where a humble fish supper is the starting point for nostalgia and thoughts about religion.
John Donne wrote some of the greatest poems on the subject of religion; one of them being his Holy Sonnet “Batter my heart, three person’s God”. Towards the end of “Food for Thought”, there is a blatant reference to Donne’s sonnet. My apologies to the shade of John Donne, but I just couldn’t resist it!
FOOD FOR THOUGHT:
Fish supper tonight; I have been enticed.
The Chinese chippy; its friendly hubbub,
wafting aromas, glowing bright lights.
I stand in the queue; people come and go.
Memories of childhood flicker and flow. . .
I knew, every Friday, going home from school,
what awaited me, glistening, on a plain, white dish.
Week in, week out, an unbroken rule.
Unwritten, understood: it would be fish.
Cooked by my mother’s fervent, Catholic hands;
pure, white fillets of haddock or cod.
As clean, as virtuous, as Sally Army Bands.
Wholesome, nutritious; an offering to God.
Jesus and fish, I could understand.
The disciples, fishermen of Galilee.
Peter and the others, harvesting the sea.
Loaves and fishes fed the five thousand.
But bread and wine as Christ’s body and blood;
(the priest got the wine, to savour and taste;
we got “The Host” of cardboard and paste.)
that was a problem, never understood.
In no way did this artifice fill my need.
When Host met tongue at communion rail,
all faith and belief would begin to fail. . .
Will it batter my heart, this oleaginous cod?
I anoint it with condiments; can of beer for
libation. Insert a mouthful; await revelation.
It tastes of grease and salt; but what it tastes of most
is paste and cardboard: it tastes of The Host.