You don’t have to like oysters,
there’s nothing wrong with you
if caviar and truffles turn you off.
Though some will look down their nose at you
if you decline champagne,
it’s not a sin to spend your life
without a diamond ring or stud.
As for grand opera, Wimbledon, Ascot
and the Royal Tea Party,
you’re not alone in preferring to dunk
ginger nut biscuits in Earl Gray
and nibble soldiers with soft-boiled eggs
I met one honest man who ate puffer fish
before his wife – with their Johney in mind.
He founded a not-for-profit that cared
for orphans in Somalia or earthquake
victims in Katmandu.
There are bungie jumpers, macro-biotic vegans
and others devoted to saving earthworms
from global warming,
before the bees run out.
You don’t even have to be like any of them,
if you want your tombstone to be admired.
Your legacy may not even be on your agenda –
and who cares if no one remembers
your greatest achievement?
No one teaches children to stand out from the crowd,
to plant their own standard
and translate their imaginations
into language you can use for talking to yourself.
Few parents instruct their offspring to ignore
advice from elders and betters –
which may be why I’ve yet to see
a mother feeding oysters to her darling
and a father making sandwiches
with earthworms or dead wasps.
You don’t have to have a religion
or vote for a political party.
You don’t have to love your teachers
or thank them for their work.
You don’t have to drive a car
or send Christmas cards to say you’re still alive.
You don’t have to eat too much
Or donate yourself to a worthy cause.
It’s not even compulsory to re-read this poem.