Around 2015, I saw playwright and storyteller Lisa Huberman‘s The Prodigal Vegan—one of several incarnations of the show I’ve attended through the years. A highlight was when Lisa presented Health Limericks, a limerick book that her late grandfather Max Huberman published in 1964; he was ahead of his time! I appreciated how the limericks related to Lisa’s overall story and depiction of her family in The Prodigal Vegan. When my interest in limericks was nascent, I was awestruck by how the quirky, quick verse packed so big a punch. The limericks got their point across with smoothly flowing humor, persuading audiences to listen to messages about health in a way that other poetry or prose would be hard-pressed to accomplish. I reached out to Lisa, and she put her grandfather’s poetry in context:
When I started compiling There Once Was a Limerick Anthology, which will be published in August, I knew I wanted to include a selection from Health Limericks. I’m happy to share even more limericks from Health Limericks in this blog post; all the limericks are by Max Huberman, and the art above is by Ray Sawyer.
No matter how much you acquire Or fulfill your every desire, What good is your wealth When you've ruined your health And suffer until you expire? The refiners of food used to say That spoilage ate profits away. Now they're not unnerved, Since such foods are preserved To remain many years on display. When you're burdened with losses and strain Till it's plain you are going insane, You can find peace of mind Being gentle and kind, Then each loss is offset by a gain. When cattle are slyly injected So no one will know they're infected; The beef can be sold And customers told; "Don't worry, it's U.S. inspected!" When the problems of Health seem titanic, There's really no need that you panic— For health that will flourish, Eat foods that will nourish And make sure the food is Organic. A patient complained with a curse To his doctor, "I think I feel worse, For the food I am fed In this hospital bed You wouldn't dare feed to your nurse!" "I can't see," said a lady named Fran, "Why my husband became a sick man, For each dish I embellish With spices and relish And feed him nice meals from a can." If your work leaves you tired and bored And you pray to have vigor restored, Try helping your neighbor, For this kind of labor Will bring you the greatest reward. From Miss Carson's book, "Silent Spring," We learned why robins don't sing. Though some may dispute her, No one can refute her— Her truth will forevermore ring! A bandit who loved to drink beer, Complained "I must end my career; When I yell 'It's a stickup!', I burp and I hiccup And no one believes I'm sincere." A sick woman said to the baker, "I suspect you're a bit of a faker, For I itch and I twitch From this bread you enrich, Which speeds up my trip to my Maker." I never could quite comprehend How intelligent people pretend That it's sane or humane Spraying grain from a plane Which poisons the "foe" plus the friend. When life's full of torment and tension, Here's an aid to health we should mention— Each man is your brother, So love one another And conquer all strife and dissension.