Liber Jonae



What angers prophets most is menus
That don't truly describe a cook's intent,
That lure the palate with overwrought blurbs
And dangle in air the scents of paradise
But serve horrors even worms won't eat.
I mean, Marguerite, the bills of fare
That rhapsodize over a rack of lamb
That looks like a rat the cat half ate
And then buried inside a plate of sludge.
I mean, Marguerite, the bills of fare
That laud salads as though they'd never died,
Never grew corrupted, decayed and brown
On banks beside their native sewage ditch.

Contract law does not extend to vows
Propounded in the heat of self-promotion.
And there's no recourse here, I fear, for that.

You don't live here in Nineveh for long
Before you learn it's all one loud boast.
Nonetheless you'd think dinner would be exempt,
A time, a sabbath time, for minds to rest
And put this need for scrutiny aside.
Those who heaven appoints to find the facts
Would rather not pursue their work at meals,
For who'd willingly plumb suspicious soup
To identify for grieving relatives
The soggy things that float bloated there,
Croutons perhaps, or parts of shrimp, or flies?
And what prophet would put aside his fork
To guess what hidden agendas will swim
In congealed glop they tout as coq au vin?
After a diner formulates desire
And specifies the taste that fits his bud,
He won't easily swallow substitutes
Or stomach a lower-priced lookalike,
A fact that drives kitchens to subterfuge,
To little tricks that train eyes elsewhere,
To look at presentation, not at sauce.
But appetites are not easily tricked,
Not easily led from a plotted course
By ploys designed to enhance a failed dish
Or swap for cheesecake a low-fat bean.
Although I'm no gourmet or connoisseur
I know what I like, like what I know,
And what I like is a well-behaved meal,
An honest food that's freed from all pretense.

Ernie's cuisine rarely gets good reviews.
Prophets should know that, said Marguerite.

I hate it when angels disguise themselves
In sly tries to blend with melon slices
Whittled up like little coral reefs.
They take their cue perhaps from Buddhist chefs
Who barbecue carrots instead of ribs,
Or cannibal cooks who can't get a corpse,
Or can't get it fresh or tender enough,
And serve instead a roasted leg of pork
All dolled up in sporty swimming trunks.
Or maybe angels take inspiration,
If none comes down from heaven itself,
From priests who bait the faithful few with blood
But switch them first to wine and then to juice
And then, in most rites, just to concepts,
To divine transfusions they guarantee
Free of infectious hepatitis A,
Bland enough that no one takes offense,
Or drives home drunk still giddy with God
And strikes down a toddler riding her trike.
What is holy if not risk reduction?

God's message, I've heard, said Marguerite,
Can't place itself in this mortal sphere
Without leaving behind divine vestments
That look too antiquated, too stiff
For less formal or elevated realms.

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