Eating People Is Wrong
Jay Rogoff

Eating People Is Wrong

Each student writes a firmly fixed belief
upon the board. After their squibs on God,
abortion, and world peace, a skittery laugh
bubbles up at this dogma I have scrawled.

“Why do we call it wrong?” I ask. “Mere logic
can't make it evil; to say a priori
that cooking conscious beings is barbaric—
that’s sentimental, narrow, arbitrary.”

The students chew that over. So do I.
They’re thinking of that monster epicure
Hannibal Lecter, fussing over Château
Haut Brion to complement human liver.

Montaigne reminds us anthropophagi
(Columbus coined the label “cannibals”)
are fully human, just as you and I.
Caliban sings, dances, and seeks grace.

Our meat is poetry. Was Jeffrey Dahmer
(madman, pederast, and cannibal)
more wicked than, let’s say, the Unabomber,
killing on ecologic principle?

The mind sees a hand or foot upon a fork,
or parceled people-portions for Idi
Amin. The new white meat, leaner than pork!
Among the Hua of Papua New Guinea,

all children must ingest their family’s essence
to grow up fully human, so they’re fed
sweat, urine, feces, blood—every excrescence,
plus flesh of friends and loved ones lately dead.

Chinua Achebe loved to tell this joke:
a cannibal was asked if he enjoyed
his diet. “Oh, yes, I love eating folk.
I want to eat everybody in the world!”

Eyes squinting under multicultural
illumination, we grope to consensus:
our class determines on a cannibal
lifestyle, if civilization so demands us.

The Donner Party, the Andes crash survivors—
my students sigh; some tears. More food for thought
while gathering their books, the class now over,
to head for lunch at commons (mystery meat).

Jay Rogoff

has published five books of poems, most recently Venera (2014), The Art of Gravity (2011), and The Long Fault (2008), all published by LSU Press. His work appears in many journals, including The Hudson Review, Literary Imagination, The Southern Review, Salmagundi, and The Hopkins Review, where he serves as dance critic. He lives in Saratoga Springs, New York, where he teaches at Skidmore College.