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ISSUE:  Spring 1992

If I mix a vegetable and moral metaphor
then this pale,
arrogant little leaf—its juices spare,
its taste pinched
and numbing—is equivalent
to a rich child pulling legs
off a bug, to a swaggering walk through a TB ward
by a pulmonary giant. Not to mention
a pathetic excuse for salad: four, five spiked shards
arranged like spokes
around its hub: a radish delicately carved.
The white plate upon which it sits so bare it blinds me.
Who, forced to wear white butler’s gloves,
bends over a row all day
to pick this for a lousy wage
and can’t afford or, I’d prefer, refuses
to eat it? It’s so pallid
turning to yellow I feel stabbing it
with my fork
would hurt it
or at least be impolite
so I slide the shiny tines beneath a piece
and lift it to my lips
and it’s as if I’m eating air
but with a slight afterburn: dust and bone,
privilege and toe-dancing.
So delicate, curling in on itself
in an ultimate self-embrace: fussy, bitter, chaste, clerical
little leaf.


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