Root Vegetable Poem
by Tisha Turk (from Getting Out Alive)
The man who sells me sunchokes
folds the top of the bag and tells me:
If they dry up, just plant them. He sounds
so certain. I'm sure he's right. These
surviving roots, tiny and heavy
in my palm, they'll come through
one way or another. Onions hang
in strings from the rafters of the attic,
rows of carrots wrapped in paper
line their basement crate, potatoes
packed in sand guard the coldest wall.
I'm not yet dreaming of asparagus,
snap peas, strawberries, mint. I want
what lasts through the long winter.
I am making vegetable stew for a girl
who will never taste it, who wrote me
an essay about sexism, the best
in the class, and a letter saying
she doesn't want a body anymore.
Under the summer sun she was already
pale and thin. Now, I imagine, her bones
are cold, too close to the surface.
She's tired of the flesh, its grease
and softness. She wants to be raw,
paper-skinned, small and hard as roots
readied for winter. She wants
to dry up and not be planted, to let go
of what binds her to the ground.
I wish I could tell her to take root
in her own self, to tell her there's still
something inside her that could grow.
Instead I stir the onions, add salt
and wine, scrub parsnips, dice turnips,
pull sunchokes from the paper bags
stacked along the cellar wall:
protection from what howls outside
and in. These roots have their own voices,
rustling against each other, speaking
into the wind. These days I'll listen
to anything that knows how to breathe
underground, anything that digs deep
and holds on. I can hear them whispering
to both of us: the body is worth saving,
the body is worth getting out alive.
In other news, I am rethinking my choice to bring jeans to Europe instead of dress pants. They are so effing heavy. (I mean, wearing them, not that packing them is gonna make my luggage exceed airline regulations.)
I have also been considering wearing my new black sneakers to work, despite the fact that obviously they'll be hotter than the flats I've been wearing, because I like having heft on my feet. These sneakers are very imperfect, but they'll do; and they're solid black, so they're not gonna look unprofessional at a glance.
I look forward to the winter when I can go back to comfortably wearing boots, though. Today wasn't particularly miserable (one point mid-afternon I checked weather.com and it said: 83F, feels like 86F, 57% humidity, 67F dewpoint), but every time I walked somewhere outside I ended up sweating and sticky, and I just don't enjoy that. It boggles my mind that there are people who actively enjoy this (hi, paper_crystals).