Using form: anapest (anapaest): Susan McLean, ‘Illicit’

I needed to take a vacation from cake
so my diet would be more judicious.
But my plan was cut short by a chocolate fudge torte,
and the relapse was truly delicious.

Next it was cheese (such as triple-cream Bries
and Gruyères) that I vowed to avoid.
But I fell in the snare of a ripe Camembert.
It was bliss. My resolve was destroyed.

When the experts all said “To lose weight, give up bread,”
I thought that was a food I could shun.
I succumbed to the spell of the beckoning smell
of a freshly baked cinnamon bun.

I have found self-denial is not such a trial
and has unforeseen good effects.
True relish is hidden in all things forbidden.
Have I mentioned I’m giving up sex?


Susan McLean writes: “Like many women, from my teens on, I had periods of dieting, followed by periods of eating normally and gradually regaining weight I had lost on the diets. That pattern can cause despair for many, but in my case, it made me notice how delightful a food becomes once it is forbidden. Diets are dull, and demonizing any particular kind of food is silly, so these days I don’t deny myself anything, but just cut back on the portions. Since the poem is about pleasure (and I once heard Dr. Joyce Brothers say that all pleasures are related to one another), I decided to write it in rollicking anapests, with lots of fun internal rhymes and polysyllabic rhymes.
This poem first appeared in Mezzo Cammin, an online journal of female formalist poets,
and later was published in my second book, The Whetstone Misses the Knife.”

Susan McLean has two books of poetry, The Best Disguise and The Whetstone Misses the Knife, and one book of translations of Martial, Selected Epigrams. Her poems have appeared in Light, Lighten Up Online, Measure, Able Muse, and elsewhere. She lives in Iowa City, Iowa.

Photo: “Joann’s cake: Now featuring every delicious thing at once” by ginnerobot is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.


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