Click here to listen to Ron Slate read this poem. I remember my mother squeezing the Camembert. She bought it five days
before unwrapping it, unwrapped it
two hours before she served it.
But what the French sociologist calls
la déstructurisation of family meals
means there’s no more patience
for ripening on the cold shelf.
This message comes to us
on a tray with quick-serve cheddar puffs
passed across the cocktail party,
across news networks via satellite.
Also it lands thudding with the flat bread,
bean salad, raisins, fruit bar,
seedless jam and plastic cutlery
in the humanitarian airdrop.
Pah! A man rejects the bland cheese couplets.
And the pre-moistened serviette.
In this world he fears annihilation.
This world has made him a nihilist.
Now he sits on a bed, on the bedspread
in a motel on the edge of Las Vegas
or a hotel near Narita Airport
eating an engineered salty snack,
planning deaths designed his way,
getting more and more thirsty.
So hear me. Compassion begins in the pasture.
Adoration of cow breed, grass strain,
the certain season for milking,
the way the curd is cut and pressed
and salted and cured and shaped,
the time and temperature at each stage.
The marketing man from Coeur-de-Lion,
the number-one brand of Camembert,
is revising the résumé of his ripe life.
And you and I, paring away the rind,
do you and I have a patient nose
for the creamy inwardness of things?