When I was young, they’d take me into town
to choose a pair of trousers or of shoes,
a carpet, or perhaps an eiderdown;
they felt it was important I should choose.
And, like a little fool, I let them play;
I’d choose, then point it out for them to see.
They shook their heads and took the thing away
and told me this one here was right for me.
But every time, although it was absurd,
I thought the offer of a choice was real,
and so I meekly took them at their word
and hid what I was not supposed to feel.
I could not hate the paper on my wall,
for I had been to choose it, after all.
Now I am old, the choice is still the same,
but I am wiser now, and understand
the measure of this sordid little game.
Our leaders swear they never force your hand;
if jobs are scarce, the blame is all on you,
for you, of course, have chosen to be poor.
(Why, who would not? Would they not choose it too
if they could just walk through that open door?)
And so they bludgeon, starve and terrify
in ways for which a parent would be jailed;
so we are scarred, grow ill, or even die,
and then they say that it is we who failed.
This game is played on those who have no voice;
it’s known as “let’s pretend you have a choice”.
Sarah McEvoy is a Cumbrian poet, writer, translator, proofreader, activist and early music enthusiast. They prefer neutral pronouns, and you can find more of their writing at http://mongoose-writes.weebly.com
The Shaming of Food
(after Henry Reed)
Today we have shaming of food. Yesterday,
We had crash diets. And tomorrow morning,
We shall have how to detox by juicing. But today,
Today we have shaming of food. (This dessert
Satisfies body and soul with its spicy sweetness,
And today we have shaming of food.)
These are saturated fats. And these
Are sugars and starches, which you should not eat.
This is salt, which is bad for high blood pressure,
(Which in my case I have not got. I tell them
How much individual dietary requirements vary,
Which in their case they have not got.)
This is gluten, which will certainly kill you
Even if you are not coeliac. And please do not let us
See anyone eating fast food. You can all cook quite easy
If you have any brains in your head. (The timid
Order takeaway by phone, never letting anyone see
Any of them eating fast food.)
And this you can see is margarine. The purpose of this
Is to replace butter, as you see. Opinion has shifted
Rapidly backwards and forwards: we call this
Vital research. (And rapidly backwards and forwards
I am beating butter and sugar to make a new form of cake;
I call it vital research.)
They call it vital research: you can follow it easy
If you have any brains in your head: like the fats,
And the sugars, and the gluten, and the various awful diseases,
Which in our case we have not got; and the food police
Silent in disapproval as my mixer beats backwards and forwards,
For today we have shaming of food.
Sarah McEvoy is a Cumbrian poet, writer, translator, proofreader, activist and early music enthusiast. They prefer neutral pronouns, and you can find more of their writing at http://mongoose-writes.weebly.com.