rhubarb by Tom Jenks

A short essay on rhubarb

I once ate six helpings of school dinner rhubarb. They needed to get rid of it and no-one wanted it except me. I kept coming back, even after the custard was gone, even when the ladle was going so deep into the steel vat that the rhubarb had a sharp, jangling taste, like licking a battery. It seemed that I liked rhubarb more than other people liked rhubarb, an important lesson. It would have been legendary, if anyone had noticed. 

I still like rhubarb. I seem to mention it a lot in my work. I wrote a story called ‘rhubarb’, which is in this collection, also called ‘rhubarb’. I like the word ‘rhubarb’ too. I like its wayward ‘h’, pushing up through the other letters like rhubarb pushes up through cracks in a patio, finding its way in like rhubarb finds its way into suburban gardens from waste ground and sidings…


“Traversing the business parks of the world with mythical creatures riding shotgun, rhubarb offers up a must-have companion to a skewed reality, with plenty of sage advice and witty repartee perfect for parties in the new normal; tightly written user manuals for our own “big pan with the lost lid”.”

  • Sarah-Clare Conlon; Manchester-based writer and editor; pamphlets 2022 with Contraband and Broken Sleep.

“Tom Jenks’ poetry is as mysterious as it is funny, like some playful cousin of the citizenship test, it stares down contemporary Britishness and nails the horror.”

  • Sophie Herxheimer is an artist and poet who lives in South London.

“Squid learn ju-jitsu online, overlooked Russian novelists fail to avoid virtual wellness huddles; the genius of Tom Jenks can be found in his surreal intricacies, his throwaway profundities, his delicious deadpan and in that feeling he leaves you with, not sure whether to laugh or cry.”

  • Vik Shirley, poet, writer & editor of Mercurius Surreal-Absurd.
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