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Vegetable Wisdom

ISSUE:  Spring 1992
You want to tell me how it seemed
the day you fell in love at the Blue Parrot
and the night in Washington Square when you felt
a weird hitherto undescribed floating absence of love
and how much it hurt that day on Waterman Street
across from Faunce House when the cars passing
were just clots of metal and the poetry books
were just wads of flattened wood because
Cathleen had walked away . . . .
You want to spill those old dark beans.
They seem to choke you. They threaten to burst
with undigested meaning—

but why does it have to be me, a total stranger
who has to listen and soak it all up?
Your trust in me is a strange miscalculation;
you seem to believe I’m a future lover or brother
whose heart holds a certain space waiting to be filled
precisely by how you feel about how you felt
in Dilemma XY or Situation Q.
No, baby. You have the wrong number,
you were sold some bad information; I am someone
quite other. To me
the exact shading of how your mother in her gold bathrobe
suffered through her final months
(as perceived by you)
and how your father was brave in the silence of the kitchen
(as perceived by you)
is only distantly of interest like bright clothing
that flaps on a line behind some humble dwelling
seen from a fast bus. You see what I’m saying?
I’m a kind of receiver who can take your jewels of memory
and call them beans, beans you want to throw up.
It’s a dubious metaphor but I don’t really care
the way you in your bean-puffed pride feel sure
I must care—I am something else, you sensitive drip!
You’re so pitifully pleased to address a total stranger
but that’s because you have no idea how totally I am
a stranger. Will you take some advice from a stranger?
Put that poem back in your fat little filing cabinet.
And then what? Then what? Then try to be strong:
like a plant, a bush, a tree;
a tree’s nobility is poemless.
My own agenda is to grow and fulfill myself
without bothering anybody else, under the stars, under the
with the wind in my hair, smelling the salt sea breeze,
hearing the indecipherable songs of birds
and the alien croaking of frogs content to be frogs.
One zucchini does not ask another zucchini for praise.


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