Sunday, February 7, 2010

Vegetable love

My vegetable love should grow
Vaster than empires, and more slow....

Andrew Marvell, "To His Coy Mistress,"
That's one of my favorite lines of poetry. How peaceful it sounds to let love grow as slowly and quietly as an excellent tomato, or maybe a scorzonera root: invisible underground, and initially unpromising, but yielding great pleasure to the discerning. But of course vegetable love has its own forms of competition and violence, as every weeder knows. And humans are a hasty bunch.

Anyway, here's another poem I like, about love and produce gone wrong.

She bought the eggplant because her lover
had said he was leaving, and she'd read
somewhere it was an aphrodisiac,
and she was willing to try anything,
even magic, even vegetables.
She could have bought the eggplant at the grocery store,
but because this was work that mattered,
she drove out into the country
and stopped at a roadside farm stand.
She chose the eggplant with care, the way
she might have picked out a baby or a puppy.
She found the perfect one, long, globular,
and so purple it was almost black.
On the way home, she planned how she might prepare it —
in a cold ratatouille, cubed and sauteed,
split and charcoaled over the grill,
or sliced and marinated in lime juice —
and if it worked, and she knew it would, she'd buy more.
But already it was too late. He was gone.
She remembered how it had been back
at the beginning, when he used to come home
with an armload of greens for salads,
how they would rip, shred, grate, then toss,
and feed each other, and how she had loved him.
She kept the eggplant in the refrigerator,
because although he'd said she'd grown strange,
she hoped he'd miss her and return.
It began to soften, then turned to mush.
It liquefied and leaked all over the shelves.
It grew mold and began to stink.
Each night when he did not come back,
she looked at the sodden mess, noted the changes,
told herself it was just beginning to work.
Diane Lockward
Beloit Poetry Journal, Vol. 47, #2, Winter 1996-1997

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