For Martha

Thank you for the meal last night!

If shopping till you nearly drop
Just glance in at a health food shop.
You’ll find before you up to six
Varieties of muesli mix,
And shelves of those exotic pills
Designed to cure your latest ills.
If anxiety you wish to curb
They have a hitherto unheard-of herb.
There’s basil, balm and bergamot
Fresh from some rustic village plot.
There’s calcium and arrowroot
And apricots in bags of jute,
Endless varieties of bean
To keep you regular and lean;
Weird supplements to add to food
To regulate your every mood,
And for the vegetarian who’s faddish
Recipes for the humble radish.

What do all these people share
Who come to do their shopping here?
Can they expect a longer life?
Will they escape the surgeon’s knife?
Fortified, detoxified
Will they be revivified?
Alas, most patrons seem to verge
On hearing, prone, a funeral dirge.
Their skins are pale, their eyes lack lustre
They seem to find it hard to muster
Sufficient strength to measure out
A kilo’s worth of bamboo sprout.
They totter, frail. It is apparent
They are so thin, they’re near transparent,
And you can wait for quite a while
For something as exhausting as a smile.

Man can get by with lean cuisine,
(With secret chocolate in between),
And lose weight on the Atkins diet,
(Though for a month I wouldn’t buy it),
But tofu gives me belly ache;
Thank you for last night’s sirloin steak!

August 2003