The Phrenology of Food

After the flood
A treasure trove had collected
In the chaos,
Each casket
Baptized by ocean,
Not yet tainted
Or corroded.

It was believed
That by passing sensitive fingers
Over each crease
In the skin
Or over the slight swelling
Where the container
Was about to blow
The contents
In some predictable way
Might be identified.

So tuna and rice pudding
Became anonymous,
Cling peach halves (in syrup)
Were transformed
By the alchemy of madness
From shiny aluminium,
Corned beef
Became edible.

Mystics and mesmerism
Has been replaced by the glint
Of the knife and the opener
And magic
By the turn of the key.

© Martin Porter 2006

Phrenology of Food is a parody of phrenology, extending the study of character by measuring the shape of the skull to the identification of canned foodstuffs from the swellings and dents in their cans.

The poem was largely inspired by a newspaper article about a flood and its effects on supermarket stock. The report described how foodstuff was being destroyed because the wrappers had been washed off the tin cans, something which I felt was wasteful. The report described how it was impossible to identify the contents, but it seemed obvious to me that opening the can would solve this problem. Of course, the contents may not be what was desired, but opening the can still offered the possibility of making use of the contents whereas disposing of the cans before opening ensured the opportunity was erased.

The poem is very loose in its structure and is mainly held together by alliteration.

This poem is also published on the Take Flight website.

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