Searching the aisles for the right kind of birdseed
To feed my inner nightingale,
I wandered the shelves of an outlandish store
Filled with customers chasing their own tail.
The store’s speciality was impossible objects
Such as tins of rainbow paint,
And four-dimensional sprocket-holes
The sight of which made you feel faint.
There were devil’s forks in the cutlery section,
Each prong was an optical illusion,
So that morsels of food eluded forked stabs
Leaving consumers in hungry confusion.
The stairs to the different departments ascended
And descended in a continuous loop
Meaning customers climbed forever, getting no nearer
To the free bowls of mock turtle soup,
Or to the tin-cans that produced instant laughter
Or the horse-feathers, as used by Groucho Marx,
Or to the edible gravestones for cheering up cemeteries,
And the invisible coins for an inaudible jukebox.
There were blacked-out mirrors that helped you
To ignore the irrelevancies of life;
Their non-reflectivity forbade self-absorption,
The source of man’s endless strife.
Every item in stock was designed to unsettle,
To undermine reality’s status quo;
Shoplifters were encouraged to help themselves
By a Tannoy urging, ‘Ready, steady, go!’
On entering the store, a hidden force-field
Installed the Economic Equalizer App.,
Which hived off funds from those with too much
So the poor found they’d money on tap.
The Impossible Emporium’s owner and director
Could sometimes be glimpsed in the aisles:
He looked like someone homeless and penniless
Yet he gave off a radiant, solar-powered smile.
The owner had an ancient black-and-white collie
Attached to the end of a long piece of string
And he said, “I’m glad you’ve found your way here
“And hope our anti-consumerism was amusing.
“Now today we have ‘True Love’ on special offer
(His smile made it impossible to frown).
“What’s it like?” I asked. “Oh, the tiniest sample
“Will turn your entire world upside down.
“‘True Love’ can come in delicate doses
“Or we can supply it in the mega-size;
“It can put a spring into a dinosaur’s step
“And give your entire body a surprise.
“Everyone needs to adore and to be adored once
“And to inhabit an impossible dream –
“To eat a whole box full of spiritual chocolates…
“I hope that you’re warming to the theme?
“Try to imagine every one of your brain cells,
“And every cell in your body being kissed.
“You’re a long time dead, you should try it once.
‘True Love is not to be missed.
illustration: Elena Caldera
“We’ve now bottled the prime ingredient
“From all the great lovers of the past,
“From Romeo and Juliet; Heloise and Abelard…
“And we’ve found a formula that’ll last.
“It consists of serotonin, of kindly eyes meeting
“And of hearts fanned by angel’s wings;
“Take a drop, it’s free, the tincture of true love,
“Then be quiet while a nightingale sings.”
I drifted off in a beatific reverie while the essence
Of Tristan and Iseult, and of Jesus and John
Was invoked by my ingesting the impossible juice.
“It’s the blueprint,” he said, “for a global love bomb…
“Just think if instead of inhaling the poisonous fumes,
“The by-products of competition and aggression,
“You were feeling the tingle of unutterable loveliness,
“That, my dear heart, is our deranged mission!”
Then he faded. The supermarket daydream was interrupted
By a uniformed figure stacking shelves,
“Can I help?” he asked. I politely said no, wanting to tell him
That with true love we could help ourselves.