Always difficult to decide between them, this full cupboard of boxes of cereal, almost too many, the claims of wheat, oats and rice competing for attention. How to weigh the merits of the flake, biscuit, and crispy pillow, against the muesli; frostings, maltings, and encrustations with fruit or honey against the unadorned; the morality of made-up sultana bran versus sultanas and bran bought separately? Time was, the day’s first choice lay between traditional porridge and cornflakes – the former made from oats pure and simple, eaten pacing a crofter’s kitchen, to fuel in later years a Times correspondence about “peripatetic porridge”, and whether to use milk, milk mixed with water, or fresh spring water only; the practice of pouring into a drawer to cool, and packing a cold slice for one’s lunch. Or cornflakes, crisp and golden, from a box with a picture of a cockerel, and another of a bowl of the contents garnished with strawberries, irresistible, but bringing disappointment to us children when we found not one berry inside. Still we read from the side of the packet mystical incantations about riboflavin, how many nutritious milligrams. Were stoical when breakfast went soggy. Today, I reach for Shreddies, pour a few in my bowl, then reconsider, decant them into a larger bowl of old-fashioned earthenware, feeling the honesty of its yeoman weight. On further reflection I put them back into the first bowl, then pour them back into the packet, for my heart sings with desire for Rice Krispies. Yet I have none. My ears resound with the absence of pops, crackles and snaps. This may be for the best, for should I be eating products made by those who cannot spell, or who misspell deliberately, to avoid charges of describing the stuff inaccurately? Or by refusing to eat them would I be undermining Western capitalist democracy? Such strange thoughts, but are they really so strange? Stranger than this new craving For grapefruit and kedgeree that I think I feel, though it may be in my imagination? Whence this inability to make up my mind, or whatever it is that is located in my head, or brain, or pineal gland, or wherever, and corresponds to the “I” writing this, if this writing is not itself a figment of “my” fevered imagination, if “I” have one? Ah, there is the crunch! This is the challenge, like it or not, ultimately to be confronted. Careful distillation even of jentacular issues leads direct to the weightiest questions.
(born 1936) is one of the most highly-regarded and distinctive contemporary American poets. The most notable feature of the form of his poems is the unusually long lines. Their contents often start from something mundane, such as a shoe, and "wrestle and nag at their subjects, sinewy, tightening", with one "nervy qualification" after another leading unexpectedly but inexorably to an irreducible moral core.
Or it is just conceivable that there are readers who are irritated by his habit of making mountains out of molehills, and his apparent inability to make his mind up about anything? If there are any such people, they may enjoy this parody. Jentacular, by the way, is an obscure word meaning "pertaining to breakfast". Poems that contain riboflavin must be pretty rare too.
There is little danger of confusingwith either William Carlos Williams or John Hartley Williams, of each of whom I have also done a parody.
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This page last updated 02/09/2006