An Ode to Cheese for National Poetry Month

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The Missing Piece by Shel Silverstein

My parents were – and still are – voracious readers, and they encouraged my sister and I to do the same as much as possible. While my sister read on occasion, I would get lost in a bookstore for hours, curl up on the giant square pillows the local shop had strewn all over the children’s section and just sink into a pile of books. My mom volunteered at our school library sometimes and was always hip to the latest trend and bestselling authors, so she would offer suggestions all the time. My dad was not as in touch with the adolescent brain so he would pick titles that appealed to him or chose covers that looked cool and distinct.

In 1976, when I was six years old, my dad and I ended up in a tiny bookstore in a neighborhood I wasn’t familiar with. We were always going on adventures and I was excited to start browsing this new stash when Dad grabbed the plainest covered book I had ever seen.

“You like this Silverstein guy, right?” Dad asked.

He was referring to my obsession with Shel Silverstein and his book Where the Sidewalk Ends. I was always reciting “Sister For Sale” to anyone who would listen or quoting “Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout Would Not Take The Garbage Out” when asked to do chores. Probably not the best argument, but I was six and didn’t know any better.

Dad turned the cover toward me and I saw the title “The Missing Piece” and a drawing of a circle with a wedge missing. It looked so familiar to me and I thought really hard where I had seen it before. Then it came to me.

“That looks like a wheel of cheese! Can I have it? Can we go to the cheese shop on the way home? I promise to clean my room and put the toys away in the basement and wash the boat all by myself! PLEASE!!!!”

Dad gave his usual half smile, paid for the book, took me to the cheese shop for a wedge of Jarlsberg and held me to my promises to clean everything.

While Shel Silverstein never wrote about cheese, other poets have heralded their love of fromage. In honor of National Poetry Month, here are a few poems professing their love of cheese. Stay Cheesy!

(and Happy Birthday Dad!)

Sonnet to a Stilton Cheese

Stilton, thou shouldst be living at this hour
And so thou art. Nor losest grace thereby;
England has need of thee, and so have I-
She is a Fen. Far as the eye can scour,
League after grassy league from Lincoln tower
To Stilton in the fields, she is a Fen.
Yet this high cheese, by choice of fenland men,
Like a tall green volcano rose in power.
Plain living and long drinking are no more,
And pure religion reading ‘Household Words’,
And sturdy manhood sitting still all day
Shrink, like this cheese that crumbles to its core;
While my digestion, like the House of Lords,
The heaviest burdens on herself doth lay.

W. K. Chesterton (1874-1936)

Cheese Poem: An Ode to Cheese by Harry M. Robbins

A song I’d sing of Emmental,
Of Cheddar, Stilton, Brie,
Of Port du Salut, Camembert,
The pride of Normandy

Gruyere I love, and Parmesan,
Mont d’Or and Neufchâtel;
While Limburger and Liederkranz
Weave their olfactory spell.

And those devoted Trappist monks
Of Orme, Mayenne, Quebec,
I care not how they cure their stuff,
It has the grand effect.

The Dutchman’s breakfast food I like
Of Edam sliced knife thin;
I’m eke a Gorgonzola fan,
To Mussolini kin.

I fain would haunt those Gallic caves
Where grow the verdant molds,
And Roquefort penicillium-cured,
Is punctured full of holes.

And sooth my heart turns ever back
To Epicurus’ dream,
The food of far-famed Frankenmuth
Mild Michigan Full Cream.

Then come you he-men, rally round,
Raise high your hands and swear,
“We’ll eat the food the gods provide
For growing mainly hair!

“No cake or cream puffs, petits fours
Ice cream or tartes cerises.
We’ll give our meal a fitting end,
’Garçon, tout de suite, some cheese!’

Know a poem about cheese? Share it here! Stay Cheesy!

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