I Would Fain Die a Dry Death

Original Text: 
The Later Poetry of Charlotte Perkins Gilman, ed. Denise D. Knight (Delaware: University of Delaware Press, 1996): 48-49.
1The American public is patient,
2  The American public is slow,
3The American public will stand as much
4  As any public I know.
5We submit to be killed by our railroads,
6  We submit to be fooled by our press,
7We can stand as much government scandal
8  As any folks going, I guess,
9We can bear bad air in the subway,
10  We can bear quick death in the street,
11But we are a little particular
12  About the things we eat.
13It is not so much that it kills us -.-
14  We are used to being killed;
15But we like to know what fills us
16  When we pay for being filled
17When we pay the Beef Trust prices,
18  As we must, or go without,
19It is not that we grudge the money
20  But we grudge the horrid doubt.
22  Can a label command belief?
23Is it pork we have purchased, or poison?
24  Is it tuberculosis or beef?
25There is really a choice of diseases,
26  To any one, little or big;
27And no man really pleases
28  To die of a long dead pig.
29We take our risks as we're able,
30  On elevator and train,
31But to sit in peace at the table
32  And to be seized with sudden pain
33When we are at home and happy .--
34Is really against the grain.
35And besides admitting the poison,
36  Admitting we all must die,
37Accepting the second-hand sickness
38  From a cholera-smitten stye;
39Patiently bearing the murder,
40  Amiable, meek, inert, --
41We do rise up and remonstrate
43Let there be death in the dinner,
44  Subtle and unforeseen,
45But O, Mr. Packer, in packing our death,
46  Won't you please to pack it clean!

Notes

21] trichinosis: a disease in which trichina, minute parasitic nematoid worms, as parasites infest the intestinal tract. Back to Line
42] Packington: the Chicago stockyards area. Upton Sinclair's novel The Jungle (1905) exposed the unsavoury practices of the slaughterhouse and meat-packing industry. In the next year, Congress passed the Pure Food and Drug and the Meat Inspection Acts. Back to Line
Publication Notes: 
Independent (June 14, 1906): 1401.
RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire
RPO Edition: 
2004