Tuesday, March 1, 2011

My Vegetable Love

Still Life with Brussels Sprouts and Leeks
Had we but world enough, and time . . .
My vegetable love should grow
Vaster than empires, and more slow . . .

But at my back I always hear
Time's wing├Ęd chariot hurrying near;
And yonder all before us lie
Deserts of vast eternity.

from the poem
To His Coy Mistress
by English Metaphysical Poet
~ Andrew Marvell ~
(1621 - 1678)

Back in the days of the earliest Roman calendar, March was the first month, the beginning of the New Year, making it the perfect annual marker for nature's rebirth, new life and new love, a fresh cycle of growth.

The day holds so much symbolism. It takes its names from Mars, the god of war, who was born with the New Year. It arrives like a lion, departs like a lamb (or vice versa); and it is St. David's Day. As the Patron Saint of Wales, St. David is associated with dragons, daffodils, leeks, and -- did you know this? -- Brussels sprouts! Yet another reason to love March First!

St. David (500 -589) and all the monks in his monasteries have the honorable position of going down in history as the earliest known vegans, eating only bread, herbs, and vegetables; and drinking only water.

Among all the rather silly poems written about Brussels sprouts, there is one that stands out as particularly lovely. So for St. David's Day, here is a lush, luscious poem in honor of vegetable love, and vegans everywhere:

Brussels Sprouts*

In drag-foot March, and fastening my coat

against a churlish wind, as I arrive

at the greengrocer's stall I have in mind

Bermuda onions, chard, asparagus,

red peppers, corn -- a salad for the eye

and long-stemmed hothouse marvels hastening

the spring in every hue; but daffodils

to mark St. David's Day have frumpy blooms,

carnations wither, and the tulip buds

are February's orphans. As for fruit

and vegetables, the apples look as hard

as wood, and flavorless; my leafy thought

of salads dies. But broccoli is out

in florets, with the kindred cabbages

and Brussels sprouts. Such lowly ancestry

they have, these sprouts, so plain! They could be beads

or dresser knobs, or marbles for a game

with winter, and at thirty-seven pence

a pound are not patrician. Yet their sweet

and minimal design, their modesty,

repeating an idea of round desire

and touched with Cezanne blue, invite conceits

with painted tables, sunshine in the shape

of fruit, a bowl, a porcelain carafe,

or curtains at a window by Matisse

as if in all things green there were a grace

awaiting hand or eye to contemplate

the world transcended in its common ways.

by Contemporary American Poet
Catharine Savage Brosman

*Intellectual property of LSU Press

For more vegetable poems by Brosman,
see my Fortnightly post: "Hungry Heart"

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