A Feast of Maledictions: A Poetic Analysis of Pamilerin Jacob’s “Memory for Dinner” | Ebubechukwu Bruno Nwagbo 

MEMORY FOR DINNER | Pamilerin Jacob

again, tonight i feast on yesteryears

place the heart in a blender, grind.

 

bind my feet with a nightmare, pulled out

of a lover’s mouth:

we used to chew on each other’s tongues, like cookies.

kisses were daily delicacies, homemade.

how does one pay homage, to ache

with a mouth full of dross?

 

tonight,      i withdraw from the altar of healing

for you.      i have earned the license to swallow

the nails, you drove into my head.      tonight

 

i feast on yesteryears, & the softest parts are filled

with your voice:  your tongue swirling

behind my ears,  devouring,  deflowering

conscience

 

& the hardest parts of our story, always come

wearing water. wetting withered

portions of my crooked tongue: your name

is hot water in my mouth…

 

a mirror is how you put

a face to a disease. how you bite the lip

of a god in retrospect / eat glass, to train the belly

to withstand famine

 

tonight, before the mirror

i chew my tongue alone

sour lump of memory

floating in my mouth

a feast of maledictions….

 

Whoever must have caused the poet to write this poem must have really hurt him deeply. Whatever experience that birthed this piece must have been a skin-deep experience, too close to the heart. For the poet persona to relieve his love experience as a nightmare, it means the lover must have turned great relationship dreams to a horrible reality, a scary memory. For the poet to deploy the image of the heart being put in a blender;

“again, tonight i feast on yesteryears

place the heart in a blender, grind”

it depicts how heartless the ex-lover crushed his/her heart.

 

In “Memory for Dinner” we get familiarized with how bad memories could be eaten as dinner.

Memories are testimonies that yesterday happened. Sometimes when we are faced with challenges, we return to great memories and feed on good times from yesterday to get strength to face the challenges of today and tomorrow. But what happens when all the memory you have is one that you rather not remember?  Memories you are trying to heal from? From stanza three, we can infer that the poet persona has tried over time to wipe off the memory of the lover and the terrible nails of betrayals with which it is nailed in his/her heart and head. However, he can’t, because he is bound to feast from yesteryears. By “eating this dinner from yesteryears” he is bound to obstruct that healing process:

“…tonight,  i withdraw from the altar of healing

for you.      i have earned the license to swallow

the nails, you drove into my head.      tonight.”

Reading these lines:

we used to chew on each other’s tongues, like cookies.

kisses were daily delicacies, homemade

one is convinced that the poet persona who was blissfully in love has been woefully battered and betrayed. The poet compares his love experience to a dinner—one that tasted like cookies and homemade delicacies while eaten, but has become a bad dinner when regurgitated. We can deduce that the poet is having a bad dinner from the following reasons:

  • the dinner is forced (stanza 2)
  • it tastes like garbage or chaff (stanza 2)
  • it is painful to swallow as it passes through the throat like nails (stanza 3)
  • it tastes like hot water (stanza 5)
  • it disrupts healing (stanza 3)
  • it is likened to eating a disease (stanza 6)
  • it feels like chewing glass (stanza 6)
  • it is likened to a famine (stanza 6)
  • it is eaten alone (stanza 7)
  • it is sour (stanza 7)
  • it leaves the mouth blistered with curses (stanza 7)

In his choice of words, Pamilerin Jacob uses strong metaphoric words to express the sad theme of the poem. Dysphemisms such as tonight, nightmare, ache, dross, swallow, nails, ache, devour, deflower, hardest, withered, crooked, hot, disease, famine, sour, lump and malediction are used to disparage and heap invective on the poet persona’s ex-lover. The poet Pamilerin Jacob uses deliberate diction to drive home the message of betrayal which is at the heart of the story.

The tone of the poem is that of regret. The poet persona is passing through extreme suffering, grief and pain. He expresses his griefs using strongly-worded invectives. His mood is lonely, sour and bitter. We can feel his aloneness in his grief. At the end of the poem a reader is bound to share in the poet’s devastation and nightmarish experience.

Pamilerin Jacob through the manipulative use of language, haunting imageries and dysphemism gives us a ticket to feast on memories and invites us to this feast of malediction with him if we have ever been hurt or betrayed in love.

Ebubechukwu Bruno Nwagbo
Moderator, PIN ANNUAL FOOD POETRY CONTEST

 

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