I watch men eat;
The opening of the mouth
The curling of the tongue
The pouching of the cheek.
I watch how they slice and spear,
How they chew and swallow.
I watch how men
Forget to pretend
With food on their plate.
All I need to know about a man
I find as he eats.

Watch the man who picks
At his food as if it were ridden
With hundreds and thousands
Of rapacious weevils
Each seeking to chew into him.
Daubing and probing
He litters the rim with suspicion.
This is one you could befriend
But must never love.
For fear holds him back. In life
There is none more important  than him.

The man there who shovels in
With gusto and relish
Each mouthful of what you lay before him.
Life to him is a marrow bone
To suck and suck.
Till dark flesh slides down his throat.
Keep him only for a while
For even as he beams with all he devours
Soon he will pick every shred
Of your life and thought
Licking you clean of your very being.

Now of this one be wary
He eats as if to eat
Is an act of faith.
Yet the plate is wiped clean.
Now watch as he trashes
The cook, the cauldron and  the stove.
Malcontent and miserable
The food is ashes in his belly.
Everything to him is an affront,
A failure to measure up.
And so will you. Eventually.
There is the careful eater
Taking only as much
As he knows is possible.
Nibbling, tasting, never rushing.
The deliberate boy
Who arranges his plate
As if it were his tomorrow.
Everything in its place.
Marry him to your daughter
For he will love as he eats
Carefully. But for yourself, is that what you want?

Often I would wonder
If there would ever be one
In whom lives a hunger
To know food as more than food.
So each meal is for him
As it is to me:
The last meal on earth
To savour and relish.
Would there be one
With an insatiable appetite
For love. For life. For more than  what we can see.
Wait I see a man there
Whose hand seeks his mouth
With no thought, no joy.
Just another thing to do.
What monsters lurk within?
What bleakness blears the edges?
Then I see him reach
For a plump purple fig
I see the mask of indifference split.
I see the hunger for the sap, the flesh The yearning to feast on all there is.

What makes him hide
His hunger for what could be his?
Is it food he fears
Or is it what love could be?
I see then the furtive greedy grasp
The northern lights of desire
The fig set ablaze in him.
I could teach him to eat
As to love I think.
He will teach me to see, I think.
He will teach me to be, I think.


Anita Nair is a well-known novelist. Her books include The Better Man, Ladies Coupe, Mistress, Lessons In Forgetting and Cut Like Wound. Follow her on @anitanairauthor