Last meal and testament…

2-clicksupperWhat would you like for your last meal?

Be creative, and thoughtful, and enjoy the chance to change your mind.

Famous last meals are solitary choices. Some, it seems, use a last meal as a testament, a statement, a protest, or a final middle-finger to the world as they succumb to the ultimate judgment here.

So, what would you like for your least meal?

There’s a fascinating exhibit at the Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art at Northwestern University in Evanston – “The Last Supper” by Julie Green is 600 Plates Illustrating Final Meals of U.S. Death Row Inmates (http://www.blockmuseum.northwestern.edu/docs/Block-%20Plate%20Gallery%20guide%205-8-15.pdf). This is a fitting complaint about how easily and ordinarily death row is used to ease our bloodthirst for revenge (or justice) – I’ll let you decide.

Early Last Meal

It was too good, I’m sorry to say
too good for an ordinary meal
in the middle of an ordinary week.
The meat was too tender and tasty,
the vegetables too crisp and right
and the wine too right and dry.
Many kings have lived and died
and not eaten this well, I thought
and I am and will never be one.
This could have, should have
been my last meal and testament;
I will never eat this well again.
I now live the life of the condemned
with time between meal and maker
to live on in satiated dissatisfaction.


Famous Last Meals

There are two kinds of last meals that one may enjoy;
the first last meal is of the judicially condemned
(but that doesn’t happen much in the days of
conscience and the humane treatment of homicidal
sorts – only mass murderers, terrorists and
southerners are afforded this privilege today).

The caring province has become an indulgent ritual;
the condemned’s last three, four, five or six requests
of fried chicken, shrimp or catfish (southerners),
fries or onion rings or deviled eggs (appropriate),
occasionally a pork chop and mashed potatoes,
pies, cakes, éclairs, ice cream of all variety,
and cherry Pepsi’s – three, four, five or six.

The single course final meals are always curious,
such as the strawberries – pints and pints (washed),
or gallons of mint chocolate chip ice cream;
the bottle of fine wine (obviously in Europe),
or the ingenious convict who ate himself obese
and sued claiming he was too fat to be electrocuted;
failing that he requested plenty and plenty of eggs.

Anger or irony are, of course, on the menu as well,
as is a request of a fistful of dirt (or a cup of yogurt),
a frozen pizza eaten uncooked (until electrocution);
the olive (with the pit still in it) for Iowa’s last to hang
to resemble his own Adam’s apple noose slung;
and the smart ass who asked for shit and denied it
asked for justice, equality, world peace (also denied).

Most murders have already changed the world
(and in return, the best world is without them),
but refusing his own, one asked that a pizza be given
to a homeless man (denied, but it was still done);
or the repentant fasting of a woman who prayed
and read (the Bible) and listened to oldies all night
(like there wouldn’t be enough of that in hell).

The more famous one is, the more infamous
the choice of final food, though for Socrates
hemlock was not his request but was had willingly,
as was Cleopatra’s figs with a side of deadly asp;
and Robert E. Lee has kept alive for weeks
after a stroke with beef broth and brandy –
which is preferable to the others’ finales.

In first class on the Titanic you enjoyed salmon
(before becoming food for the same) and rare lamb,
veggies of all sorts and sweets to match as the
band played, and wines with each and every course;
as the Chinese, Greeks and Romans insisted,
providing food for the journey of the afterlife,
while Aztecs fattened their human sacrifices annually.

These first last meals, though, most often involve
chickens (always plural) in batter and/or buckets,
though cheeseburgers are a fond and close second;
everything else is regional or, sadly, what their
Mama used to make when they were nourishing
and loving and caring for their baby and the day they
would grow up to kill someone’s else’s baby.

The babies that grew up to become famous for us
and eat the second kind of last meal – that of surprise;
diets of those unexpectedly returning to dust
soups, chowders or salads, for lean and fit lives
or yogurt, granola, even bacon and eggs –
the breakfasts of those who planned to have dinner
but they didn’t even make it to their lunch.

If the great wished to be memorable for more
than heroism or intelligence or power or magnetism
then they’d avoid the likes of tuna fish or dry toast,
chefs wouldn’t dine on peanut butter and bananas,
the King would have avoided cookies and ice cream
for his breakfast, but the Rebel without a cause
might still have had apple pie and milk.

Some second meals should really count as firsts
of the premeditated kind but gone terribly awry;
Hemingway had a steak, potato and red wine,
oh, and a twelve gauge for his dessert, so sad;
Jesus shared his Seder with eleven plus one
sopping wine with bread and insisted that all
do the same and never forget this nosh.

And that brings us back to the premeditation
of Arc’s holy communion, and a cup of cold water,
poisons and pills, ropes and rivers, dosages and damns;
damn if lead doesn’t kill more than suicide –
and depression bows before malnutrition and war;
light a last smoke readied for paradise city,
after a fine meal, and make ready.

 

Earnest Ernest…

ernestsourceAdmit it. Go ahead. Ernest’s brevity is likable. His ‘iceberg’ style (we only see the tip, the rest omitted). His blunt staccato plainness. Clarity. Boldness. Beginning, middle, end.

We’re also fascinated by his life – his glorious, extravagant, tragic life.

Ernest Hemingway gave us the stuff writers write about. Great stories, great quips, great insults and brevity. There’s even an app that will transform writing into bold, clear (short) sentences in the style of the man (http://www.hemingwayapp.com/).

What we can know about him is easy enough to digest (http://www.pbs.org/wnet/americannovel/timeline/hemingway.html), even as we’re forced to reckon with his larger than life personal story. But there’s just so much that’s fun and sad and odd and tragic about Ernest – it’s hard to ignore.

With that in mind, here are several prompts I blame on Hemingway (I have another, but it’s too long – Ernest wouldn’t like that).

The first is the legend of the six word story (telling a complete story is just six words). In true Hemingway fashion, the prompt is a test, which I fail every day but wrote a poem about anyway.

Six Word Story

The legend is about Hemingway
and therefore it takes place in a bar
over drinks (always plural) and a bet
whether he could write a story in six
words: six words, no more, no less.
This is Hemingway, for god sake
of narrow minds, narrower streets!
Mr. write drunk, edit sober himself;
making economy an understatement.
Six words might be two too many,
as in “To hell with luck.”
Or just the one if he goes with
“Courage is grace under pressure.”
But ‘You’re beautiful, like a may fly’
meets the expectation, just barely,
and I can imagine its usefulness.
No one knows how many drinks
it took to come up with the winner:
‘For sale, baby shoes, never used’
and damn if it doesn’t make me cry.

 

How many of us have wished we could have known Hemingway personally, at least for a part of his life? I have.

Hemingway

Every writer wishes,
wishes he would have
known Hemingway, at
least for a day, sometime
after Old Man and the
Sea and before the Clinic,
between young, pure
desire and the paranoid
cynic; but not in Africa
for when that story’s
told the pain of failed
flights get’s old and
undoes the personality
of liquor, staccato and
brevity; oh Ernest what
had become that was
undone in Ketchum.

 

When Hemingway was asked about writing he said it was quite easy really: “Just sit at a typewriter and bleed.” And another kindred spirit named Nietzsche offered “Of all that is written, I love only what a person hath written with his blood. Write with blood, and thou wilt find that blood is spirit.” So, for Ernest and Friedrich…

Bleed Boss, Bleed

Sit at a typewriter and bleed
seems overly dramatic advice
to an aspiring author, wouldn’t
you agree; hardly earnest enough
but perfectly understandable in
the intentional fallacy of readers
who have written little beyond
school papers forced upon them;
maybe he thought an echo of
Friedrich’s love for blood sport
and spirit would exorcise the
critic possessed which mutes
all hope of truth, for blood alone
does not lie but readers do;
maybe the dissatisfaction with
bloodless words since his first
farewell haunted every safari
and salon conversation, maybe
another wound would draw
blood – magnificently silencing
the stupefying demons of timidity;
all doubt such romance because
papa’s own daddy cared less
himself, but why would he load
his favorite Boss with two when
he knew perfectly well that
one would be sufficient?