The Book of the Dead Man (Food)

Marvin Bell

 
Live as if you were already dead.
                          Zen admonition
1. About the Dead Man and Food
The dead man likes chocolate, dark chocolate.
The dead man remembers custard as it was, spumoni as it was, shave
          ice as it was.
The dead man talks food with an active tongue, licks his fingers, takes
          seconds, but has moved on to salads.
It's the cheese, it's the crunch of the crunchy, it's the vinegar in the oil
          that makes a salad more than grass.
The dead man has a grassy disposition but no cow stomach for flappy
          leaves and diced croutons.
The dead man remembers oysterettes as they were.
He recalls good water and metal-free fish.
Headlights from the dock drew in blue claw crabs by the bucketful.
A flashlight showed them where the net lay.
If they looked bigger in the water than in the pail, they grew back on the
          stove.
It was like that, before salads.
The dead man, at the age he is, has redefined mealtime.
It being the quantum fact that the dead man does not believe in time, but
          in mealtime.
2. More About the Dead Man and Food
The dead man's happiness may seem unseemly.
By land or by sea, aloft or alit, happiness befalls us.
Were mankind less transfixed by its own importance, it would be harder
          to be happy.
Were the poets less obsessed with the illusion of the self, it would be
          more difficult to sing.
It would be crisscross, it would be askew, it would be zigzag, it would be
          awry, it would be cockeyed in any context of thought.
The dead man has felt the sensation of living.
He has felt the orgasmic, the restful, the ambiguous, the nearly-falling-over,
          the equilibrium, the lightning-in-the-bottle and the bottle in shards.
You cannot make the dead man write what you want.
The dead man offers quick approval but seeks none in return.
Chocolate is the more existential, it has the requisite absurdity, it loosens
          the gland.
The dead man must choose what he ingests, it cannot be anything goes
          in the world the world made.
So we come back to chocolate, which frees the dead man's tongue.
The dead man is every emotion at once, every heartbreak, every falling-
          down laugh riot, every fishhook that caught a finger.
 
Copyright © 2011 by Marvin Bell. Reprinted from Vertigo with the permission of Copper Canyon Press.

Poems by This Author

Around Us by Marvin Bell
We need some pines to assuage the darkness
Bagram, Afghanistan, 2002 by Marvin Bell
The interrogation celebrated spikes and cuffs
Mars Being Red by Marvin Bell
Being red is the color of a white sun where it lingers
The Book of the Dead Man (Fungi) by Marvin Bell
The dead man has changed his mind about moss and mold
The Book of the Dead Man (Nothing) by Marvin Bell
The dead man knows nothing
The Book of the Dead Man (The Foundry) by Marvin Bell
The dead man hath founded the dead man's foundry
The Book of the Dead Man (Your Hands) by Marvin Bell
Mornings, he keeps out the world awhile, the dead man
Time Study by Marvin Bell
The coffee was cold so I said so. I said,
To an Adolescent Weeping Willow by Marvin Bell
I don't know what you think you're doing
To Dorothy by Marvin Bell
You are not beautiful, exactly
White Clover by Marvin Bell
Once when the moon was out about three-quarters


Further Reading

Poems about the Afterlife
Advice to Passengers
by John Gallaher
Beyond Even This
by Maggie Anderson
Beyond the Years
by Paul Laurence Dunbar
Cruel Cogito
by Ken Chen
Descriptions of Heaven and Hell
by Mark Jarman
En Route
by Darcie Dennigan
Gone
by Lia Purpura
Heaven for Helen
by Mark Doty
How Can It Be I Am No Longer I
by Lucie Brock-Broido
In a Country
by Larry Levis
Larry Levis in Provincetown
by Rick Hilles
Mummy of a Lady Named Jemutesonekh
XXI Dynasty

by Thomas James
Populating Heaven
by Maureen N. McLane
Purgatory
by Maxine Kumin
Red String
by Minnie Bruce Pratt
Song ["When I am dead, my dearest"]
by Christina Rossetti
The Odyssey, Book 11: ll. 538-556
by Rowan Ricardo Phillips
Poems about Eating
A Wicker Basket
by Robert Creeley
Apples
by Grace Schulman
Breakfast
by Minnie Bruce Pratt
Dead Horse
by Thomas Lux
Dream In Which I Meet Myself
by Lynn Emanuel
Eating The Bones
by Ellen Bass
Eating Together
by Li-Young Lee
Egg
by Aleš Šteger
Man Eating
by Jane Kenyon
To a Poor Old Woman
by William Carlos Williams
Woman on Twenty-Second Eating Berries
by Stanley Plumly