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The Health-Food Diner -- Maya Angelou

Guest poem submitted by Raj Palaniswamy :
(Poem #383) The Health-Food Diner
No sprouted wheat and soya shoots
And Brussels in a cake,
Carrot straw and spinach raw,
(Today, I need a steak).

Not thick brown rice and rice pilaw
Or mushrooms creamed on toast,
Turnips mashed and parsnips hashed,
(I'm dreaming of a roast).

Health-food folks around the world
Are thinned by anxious zeal,
They look for help in seafood kelp
(I count on breaded veal).

No smoking signs, raw mustard greens,
Zucchini by the ton,
Uncooked kale and bodies frail
Are sure to make me run

to

Loins of pork and chicken thighs
And standing rib, so prime,
Pork chops brown and fresh ground round
(I crave them all the time).

Irish stews and boiled corned beef
and hot dogs by the scores,
or any place that saves a space
For smoking carnivores.
-- Maya Angelou
1983.

Notes: Maya Angelou is better known for her serious poetry about
emancipation, freedom and equality, in particular about African
Americans and women, particularly African American women. I came across
this one by her completely by accident, in a collection of her poetry.
This is different in theme from most of her other work, but is
completely in keeping with her irreverence to what is "accepted" in
polite society. It was written in 1983, but is increasingly funny in the
overly health conscious 90's, and always amuses me. I can imagine her
sitting down to a hearty meal, and laughing as she was writing this. I
am very weight conscious myself but enjoy my meat, second hand smoke and
an occasional puff on a cigar. I expect that most new agers might object
to this poem, and I personally find the parentheses in the last lines a
little unnecessary -- but who can resist this poem?

Raj.

[About the poet]

Maya Angelou, born Marguerite Johnson is an author, poet, historian,
conductor, actress, singer, songwriter, playwright, film director, and
civil rights activist. Born in a segregated rural area of St. Louis,
Arkansas, she comes from a broken home, was raped at eight, and was an
unwed mother at 16 years old. Throughout all these circumstances she
still managed to become San Francisco's first black woman conductor. She
was also the first black woman to have an original screenplay produced
in 1971, Georgia, Georgia. She has several volumes of poetry and some of
her composed music was recorded by B.B. King She was also nominated for
an Emmy Award for her acting in Roots and Georgia. She is fluent in
French, Spanish, Italian, and West African Fanti.

Ms. Angelou began her career in drama and dance, and she married a South
African freedom fighter and lived in Cairo. During her five years in
Africa, she lived in Egypt and became the editor of The Arab Observer,
the only English-language news weekly in the Middle East. Later she also
taught in Ghana and was feature editor of The African Review. In the
1960's she said that being black, female, non-Muslim, non-Arab, six foot
tall, and American made for some interesting experiences during her stay
in Africa. During this time she was also the northern coordinator for
the Southern Christian Leadership Conference at the request of Dr.
Martin Luther King, Jr. She was also appointed to the Bicentennial
Commission by President Gerald Ford, and the National Commission on the
Observance of International Women's Year by Jimmy Carter. She has
published ten best selling books and countless magazine articles, and in
1993 she wrote and delivered the presidential inauguration for President
Bill Clinton.

One of Maya Angelou's books, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, which was
an account of her youth, describes the trauma of being raped as a child,
the violent death of her attacker, and her subsequent refusal to speak
for five years. It was the target of a censorship attack according to
the Dec. 3, 1994 edition of the Washington Afro-American. The Round
Rock, Texas parents thought that the book was "pornographic" and "just
plain filth." It was also a two hour special on CBS. Currently, Ms.
Angelou lectures throughout the United States and abroad and recently
has been a Reynolds professor of American Studies at Wake Forest
University in North Carolina.

52 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

Manitoubear said...

I loved that poem - she's woman after my own heart! My philosphy is all
things in moderation. I'll have to admit, though, that I hate cigarette and
cigar smoke because they stink. But, gimme a big ole steak and a glass of
wine and I happy as a hog. Ooohh - pork chops, too! And fried
chicken........

Manitoubear

Marlene L Albanese said...

Actually, I am in the process of contacting Maya regarding this royal
hypocrisy that is used in one of her greeting cards. Sorry you guys enjoy
your 'steaks', but as humans, perhaps you should eat as nature intended:
frugivores. Also, perhaps YOU should have to stick, skin, and deleg (as
in remove the legs) of the terrified, fully-conscious cow, so you can
eat them. "New-Ager", my ass. I was brought up on steak, too, but then I
researched it, along with human physiology. Think you're so tough and
we're so weak? Read Slaughterhouse, by Gail Eisnitz. Face up to what
you're doing, if vegetarians are the weaklings. Live in the real world.
Steaks are cows (oh, and sometimes horses. Ooops! Why? Would that make a
difference?) If you'd like more information, to truly walk it like Maya
talks it, please contact me at (don't use the address
I'm writing this from.)

kay jay said...

I just went and saw Maya speak, and she gave the backstory to this poem-- it is not completely her beliefs, if you couldn't tell from the tone it is kind of a joke and just for laughs. Laughter is good for the soul, this is not a serious poem.

Always remember that there is a story behind any story. She was at a health food diner and was making a satire on the unhealthy looking people sitting around the diner, because when she was ordering her food the waitress went nuts on her for taking out a smoke in a health-food diner, so this was a joke/serious response to her experience.

No need to get upset over somebody else's story :)

kay jay said...

Oh and p.s. she has been smoke free for 20 years now...

Arkia said...

Love this part: "Today, I need a steak"... and glass of wine.

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