Beef


I’m fairly certain this is beef I’m eating.
I’m not positive, though.
On the contrary, it might be some
Other type of meat lurking under the gravy.
No, it’s beef!

Maybe they just arrange for it to taste like beef, whereas it’s really
An impoverished variety that loves to pawn itself off as beef.
O beef, I treated you shabbily!

On what grounds are you beef, anyway?
When I come to think of it, as seen against the background of everyday life,
You’re probably not beef at all.

Ah, I must be mistaken – it’s beef all right;
Right here, this piece I’m chewing has (what can only be called) a distinctly beefy taste.

Stripped of larger considerations, this is beyond a doubt beef I’m eating.
Isolated from the general unhappiness – it’s beef!
O, beyond the relatively harmless sphere of beef lie issues that eat us!

The idea of beef existing as such is a myth.
And I’m riding the Gravy Train.
And I’m eating my heart out.
                         
                              -- published in New American Review, January 1968

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Dear Mr. Robert Cohen,
I would like to congratulate you on such a wonderful peice of poetry!
My class has used this peice for essays regarding skepticism and metaphysics, and I myself have found it a delight to read this free-verse poetry. I based my own essay on this, and have yet to know what grade I will get.
I hope that you feel some sense of accompishment in knowing that a proffesor from an advanced school uses your poetry as a peice of literature regularily, if, of course, you did not know that. If you did, than I am merely praising this poetry and informing you needlessly.
Thank You for reading,
A Student.

Will Vermont said...

Began reading Beef when first published. Preserving that New American Review issue in a zip bag. Have read it hundreds of times. Sometimes aloud to creative writing groups or book clubs. Beef crowns my favorite poems list. I'm over 70 years old now and never thought I'd get to express my appreciation for your poem. Thank you.
Signed, Will of Vermont.

Robert David Cohen said...

I must say I was surprised -- and delighted -- by these two comments. For "Beef" to be the subject of metaphysical essays in a literature class (in which country, I wonder?) and for poetry workshops and bookclubs in Vermont, is really mind-boggling. Will, I will treasure your comment as you have preserved the copy of New American Review. I'm only a year younger than you and look back at the poem as the clumsy effort of a young poetry trying to find his voice. I ask myself: "Where's the beef?", but if you value it, there must be something worthwhile there. Thanks a million both of you!