In Competition No. 2986 you were invited to submit a poem about a deadly foodstuff.
My inspiration for this assignment was the appalling news that toast can kill you, which is yet another depressing indication that everything good is bad for you. Or perhaps, as Max Gutmann suggests in the closing couplet of his winning entry, it’s safer simply to regard all food as a potential enemy.
Honourable mentions to Mae Scanlan and Jennifer Moore, and £25 each to the winners. D.A. Prince scoops the bonus fiver.
Yes, my darling, just for you —
hunter-gathered when your need is
homely soup to add them to.
Fresh and creamy-clean, so wholesome;
don’t they tempt your appetite!
Mushrooms feed your hungry soul; come
this soup is exactly right.
Shun the supermarkets’ offering —
carbon footprint, packaged, stale;
these are handmade personal profferings
like the stuff of fairy tale.
Not for me, alas — my diet:
but I’d have some if I could.
Still, you’ll love it when you try it.
This will really do you good.
Some foods are dangerous — e.g.
The pufferfish, fesikh, ackee,
Bullfrogs, blood clams — but none of these
Disgusts like Casu Marzu cheese.
Remove a Pecorino crust
And flies swarm in to slake their lust
And lay their eggs and raise their young
Who’ll lace the cheese with maggot dung.
The hard-core Casu Mazu buff,
The addict, cannot get enough.
He gladly eats — and never squirms —
The Brussels bureaucrats can’t stand it
And, pusillanimous, have banned it,
But anyone can beat the ban
Who knows a man who knows a man.
Their restaurant was a cause of strife
For Alice Higgins and her wife,
Since Alice loved to cook, while Honey
Saw their goal as making money.
At last they had a major tiff
And Alice gave her love a biff,
So Honey took a frozen joint
And thumped her back, to make a point.
Alas! Poor Alice took it ill
And broke her head upon the grill.
The newly-widowed Honey gasped
And dropped the brisket she had clasped.
So Honey had to learn to cook
By reading a prodigious book
And Alice, with her dainty taste,
Was not allowed to go to waste.
Worse than the song of sirens, worse than gold,
Few earthly things match its destructive lure.
Who can walk past a place where it is sold
And not succumb to lust that has no cure?
Or when Nigella sings with angel voice
How easily it’s made, with what attraction,
We are at once deprived of any choice,
Our single goal, to taste its sweet perfection.
Though it be hell for teeth and woe for weight,
This pleasing poison robs us of restraint;
Once it is seen, escaping is too late,
It has the awesome power to break a saint.
The greatest joy arises from so little,
That sweetest of enticers: peanut brittle.
Fruit gets doused with killer spray.
Junk food makes you rot away.
Any sugar that you taste
spoils your teeth and bloats your waist;
diabetes may ensue.
Pizza is no good for you.
Drinking coffee makes you quiver.
Alcohol impairs your liver.
Butter, poultry, eggs and cheese
clog and harden arteries.
Nice lean red meat — not the answer —
brings on colorectal cancer.
High blood pressure? Too much salt.
Weight gain? Maybe bread’s at fault.
Those who’d live long lives conclude
they should stay away from food.
‘What ails you, Lord Scandal? Why look you so pale?
I fear you’ve been over-indulging on ale.’
‘Not ale mother, haggis, my stomach, it churns
And oh how it burns, mother, oh how it burns!’
‘Who cooked you the haggis, Lord Scandal, my child?
Your face is so pale and your eyes are so wild.’
‘My sweetheart, she cooked it, with Scot’s sausage meat
And mushroom sauce — added, she said, as a treat.’
‘Did you talk about Scotland, Lord Scandal, my son?
Did you talk about Scotland my wee bonnie on?’
‘Aye, I favoured Brexit and made my views known
But she wanted Scotland to go it alone.’
‘I think you are dying, Lord Scandal, I do,
Your tongue is on fire, your lips have turned blue.’
‘Aye, Mother, the sauce — it was death caps I ate,
I shouldn’t have argued but now it’s too late.’
No 2989: gettysburg revisited
You are invited to submit a version of the Gettysburg Address as it might have been given by a prominent figure on the world stage (alive or dead but please specify). Please email entries of up to 200 words to email@example.com by midday on 8 March.