Eating and Not Eating

This isn’t exactly the kind of poem I usually write, in some ways. Its more of a ruminatory rant abour how I feel about food these days.

I’m not usually well into long introductions to poems, but I would like to say a few things about why I started writing this.

Eating is an emotional minefield, if you ask me. On the one hand, I feel self-indulgent and selfish for all the time I’ve spent obsessing over my own body and eating habits, considering how comparatively privileged I am. On the other hand, the obsessive cycle that food can draw you into can feel impossible to break free of.

It would take a million years to explore all the reasons why people develop eating disorders or food obsessions, but this isn’t what this poem is about.

This poem is about deciding to eat. About remembering, trying to remember, sometimes against your immediate instincts, that food is nothing more or less than a thing you eat to keep you alive and prepared to tackle your life and do good (or bad) things.

Food isn’t a reward for being good, or a punishment for being bad. it isn’t an enemy ot battle against and it isn’t feeding a parasite inside your belly.

In tandem with being told (or it being inferred) that we need to lose weight, be thinner, be tighter, control ourselves, be better and neater and bendier and shinier by media or advertising or society or ourselves, it feel to me that there is a secondary stereotype, carrying just as much pressure, to acheive a ‘healthly, wholesome, womanly’ aesthetic. Which feels to me to carry just as much bullshit conjecture on how to approach our wellbeing.

Eating should not be about developing ‘healthy curves’ any more than it should be about getting thinner. It shouldn’t be about aesthetics at all. It should ONLY be about putting healthy stuff into your body so you have the well being and energy to live your life the best you can.

With that in mind, here’s a poem about it. Because as we all know, poems solve all the world’s problems.

Conversations with women and remembering I am a pacifist

Peanut Butter

I’ve got that feeling, you know?

Like something mammalian has crawled under your abdomen

and then died in the ice age.

And is now perfectly preserved and frozen solid.

I’ve got that feeling, you know?

When you were in a warm bath,

and your body felt all lithe and bendy and right.

Then the plug got pulled out

and you just found yourself stood in the yard somehow, in October.

You’re all shivery and flapping about in the wind

like an old wet sheet.

And you know it’s not that bad.

You know it’s not the worst thing,

but you want comforting.

I am from a small, northern town,

and I’ve spent years trying to flout the stereotypes of that fact.

But now, to hear the heart-warming phrase-

He’s a dickhead love-

do you want me to just knock him the fuck out?

I’m ashamed to say, would be as comforting

as the noise of the kettle coming to boil,

or the opening strains of the Coronation Street theme tune.

I’m not proud.

But I am grateful that the sound of her voice

wrapping cut glass vowels around alarmingly filthy turns of phrase

is steadily thawing the pain in my chest.

We’re tucked up in bed,

and I look at her and think, not for the first time,

how her nose and jaw,

and the line of them,

is sort of like a poem in itself.

And I wonder if it’s shallow

to be glad to be friends with someone so beautiful,

or if I think her so beautiful because she’s my friend.

She reads me a passage from a William Morris book,

and I almost forget myself entirely for a second.

And then she says

drawing on a cigarette

the trouble with men, is that they’re all dogs

and they’ll lick peanut butter off anyone’s privates


And I laugh so hard that I honestly think I might be sick.

And she laughs too because it’s not true really,

She’s in love with a good man herself.

And then she laughs again,

because it sort of is true, isn’t it.

I remember this-

that fleeting incitement for violence

is just the need for some tacit evidence of love.

Of not being alone.

And I’ve got that.

She’s fallen asleep

so I fold over the page of her book,

and remember my ten years of earnest pacifism

and how I don’t really,

with any  molecule of me being,

want anyone knocking anyone else out.

Phantom Laundry presents… Dizraeli and Downlow / PremRock + Guests (Thursday Oct 10th)

PHANTOM LAUNDRY is a monthly night at The Attic Bar on Stokes Croft in Bristol that I run with some of the Wandering Word family and VP Productions.

We like poetry, and good words of all kinds. But we also like music and pictures. There are loads of very talented practitioners of all these things in our fair city of Bristol, and beyond. And we don’t see why you can’t have them all in one night.
In October we’re featuring Dizraeli and DJ Downlow from the legendary Small Gods, alongside New York rapper PremRock, who is bringing an amazing new show re-interpretting Tom Waits songs as hip-hop, and beautiful and talented poet Rebecca Tantony who performs with pianist Silver Tortoise. Throughout all this wonderfulness, there’ll be delicious live visuals from the artists at Still Jam, and topping the night off- the fine vinyl mastery of DJ Dad and bristol finest MCs alongside.
Tempted? You can buy tickets here…
We got a beautiful poster too…