A common man marvels at uncommon things. A wise man marvels at the commonplace. CONFUCIUS

Friday, 17 December 2010

Bypass Pilgrim

Diet Sheet


Don't tempt me towards
the grave with your 'Naughty
but nice death by chocolate' -
I'm busy walking the health
apocalypse from Alpha-linolenic
acid to Omega-3
and there's no time for dessert.


Rumours of scientific treatises
arrive daily in the rehab garden.
Cooling down from aerobic steps
amongst the statues and bolted
container plants we read of new
permissions and revised prohibitions.


Archaeo-pathological analysis of my
arterial silt revealed relics
of conviviality, boredom,
pragmatism and bohemian interludes
secreted in the strata.


Silver shoals of sardines
are now marked
for death to feed
my healthy maw.


'Skin is the enemy'
said the nurse, referring
mainly to chicken.


'Avoid Eating'
the visible, the excess, that of unknown origin.


Enjoy your meal.


Roy Bayfield, a good friend of this blog, was kind enough to send me a few months ago a copy of his newly published poem-sequence Bypass Pilgrim: Writings From The Vicinity Of The Heart. I really enjoyed it. I found it a witty, original and - dare I say it - heartening collection. After being diagnosed with angina, Roy had coronary artery bypass surgery at Easter this year in the Liverpool Heart and Chest Hospital.

This book is his creative way of coming to terms with the experience. As Roy himself says in the Introduction: I ... decided to set it all down in a book, doing some breaking open and slicing up of my own to make, as best I could, a gift, love-letter, apology, self-portrait, account, waystation on a journey towards writing other things, and escape plan.

It's difficult to extract individual poems from the book, as they tend to all work together rather than stand alone. However, I've chosen Diet Sheet from the third section Rehabilitation as I find it full of incisive observation and dry wit. I also like the way the poem erodes from an initial seven line stanza down to that final killer (unfortunate word!) single line.

Roy's own blog, Walking Home To 50, can be found here.


gleaner said...

I really like this poem - very clever and funny with a sharp eye on the over-analysis of food.

It reminds me of the books by Michael Pollan where he is critical of the proliferation of dieticians et al..(including processed food companies) examining the micro-components of food and the subsequent manipulation of food for profit telling us all what to eat!

I like your new blogger header!

Grizz………… said...

I think stanza three does it for me…the impetus behind the action common to all of us who occasionally seek therapy in a cheeseburger.

The Solitary Walker said...

Thanks, Bella! I just pointed the camera though the snow at the back garden and clicked ...

Grizz ... Yes, I like that 3rd stanza too. The way he couches that all too understandable, human hamburger-syndrome in medico-archaeological-speak is very entertaining!

Friko said...

O dear, the third stanza brings it all home.

To make a poem out of over-eating, living too well and unwisely is really clever.

Make Christmas go away, somebody.

The Solitary Walker said...

Friko - you know you needn't worry! Like me, you hate those calorific mince pies and that rich Christmas cake!

Peace and love this Christams time. (It won't go away, so we may as well enjoy it. From the sidelines, in a creative way, so we can blog about it?)

Mister Roy said...

Thanks from the bottom of my supercharged heart for pimping my stuff :)

Raph G. Neckmann said...

I'm sure hot chocolate combined with plenty of walking is good for me!

Brilliant poem!

Raph G. Neckmann said...

PS Love the magical glade in the new header picture!

George said...

Sorry to simply echo what others have said, but the third stanza is the one that resonates with me also. "Revealed relics . . . secreted in the strata." I love that image. I also like what may, for me, be the central issue of the poem, the question of how we balance a prudent life with one of conviviality, how to avoid eating everything one should not eat according to myriad scientific studies, and yet be able to enjoy the meal — indeed, enjoy life.

The Solitary Walker said...

Roy - pimping? No sexual favours involved, no money has exchanged hands. This review comes from the slightly less than supercharged, sludgy bottom of my own heart:)

The Solitary Walker said...

Thanks, Raph. I never feel like its a magical glade, though, when my wife exhorts me to get digging in the springtime ...

The Solitary Walker said...

George - thanks so much for your comment. I did worry about taking one poem from Roy's sequence and isolating it. For, in fact, the whole sequence needs to be considered as a whole to appreciate the complete message. The whole is not actually about what you describe so well - there's a much wider, more subtle and spiritual dimension. I thought long and hard about which 'poem' to quote - and in the end chose an immediately witty and appealing one rather than one that was denser and less obviously accessible.

What I'm trying very badly to say is that the whole sequence is about much deeper and more interesting issues than the ones which are obvious from this link-in-the-chain poem, and I'm frustrated I can't communicate this in a single post. Guess you'll have to read the whole thing.

Mister Roy said...

Thanks for the comments everyone. Very gratifying... There's a site here with 3 more of these poems if you fancy a look: http://bypasspilgrim.wordpress.com/

Mister Roy said...

Thanks for the comments everyone. Very gratifying... There's a site here with 3 more of these poems if you fancy a look: http://bypasspilgrim.wordpress.com/

(This one may actually work!)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this - I'm definitely looking forward to reading the whole sequence - something for Christmas book tokens - thanks Robert and thanks Roy,


George said...

I apologize, Robert, if my comments about the tug between a life of conviviality and a life of prudence seemed to trivialize the poem. I understand completely that the author is on a spiritual journey. I see that he has posted a reference to three other poems, and I will definite go to his site and check them out.

The Solitary Walker said...

On the contrary, George, I don't think your remarks trivialized the poem in any way! My point was simply that it was difficult for me to put across the full meaning of the sequence by just quoting one small part of it.

ksam said...

Wow...very good! This is a must read for me. Like Andy, I too will be trolling the internet to spend my book bucks for this one! In fact...considering the age group of which I belong...may need copies for others! I think stanza 7 was the best... enjoy your meal!! LOL!