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They are so red, the peppers,
it is impossible not to admire them
before I put them on the grate
to char their skins and sweeten their flesh.

I think of all the other hands that touched
these fruits, and I thank them: whoever planted
the seed and watered the plant, whoever
weeded and hoed and broke the green stem.

I think of all the other women around the world
speaking languages I will never know who,
in these weeks of autumn, are also standing
beside a fire, turning the peppers to roast them evenly,

all of us breathing the same smoky scent.
All of us rolling up our sleeves as we prepare
to pull off the blackened skin. All of us relieved
when the seeds fall out easily. All morning the house

smells of sunshine and basil, red peppers and gratitude.
I think of all of us doing the work to feed the people
we love, our knives keeping time against wooden boards,
our hands sticky and red with devotion.

I like to torture myself with thoughts
of how perfect her world is every day,

how much easier, more beautiful, more
pleasuresome than mine. Surely

the eagles in her sky make wider arcs
on their statelier, darker brown wings.

Her Easter lilies must fill her rooms
with sweeter more honest white perfume.

Her elderberries must have more bioflavinoids.
More antioxidants, too.

The earthworms in her garden are probably fatter.
The leaves on her elm trees are greener for sure.

I will not mention her grass.

If she rode an elephant, it would have jewels
dripping down its majestic, wrinkled head.

If she had an ermine, its fur would be whiter
than any snow found in my yard.

If I am the stroppy, shaggy emu, then she
is the egret with filamentous plumes, all milky

and showy, that cascade down her slender back.
If I am an eel, she’s an angelfish. If I’m cracked

and scrambled, she’s an ornate Easter egg.
Not that I want to be an Easter egg. Nor an egret.

Nor angelfish. It’s just that I want to be happy,
as happy as I tell myself she is.

*an E-poem for Lian Canty’s Alphabet Menagerie

Digging Potatoes with Finn

We wait until the plants are dead.
That’s the time to harvest. First,
we pull away the straw. The dirt

below is damp and rich. We rake
with our fingers lightly then,
so as not to scrape the skin of

potatoes near the top. And oh,
that first glimpse of gold, how
we laugh and remind ourselves,

Go slow. After all, we’ve been
waiting all summer. But sometimes,
in the company of delight,

it’s hard to wait a second longer.
I want to say something to my son
about trust, about the way

that marvelous things sometimes
need the dark in order to grow. But
it is the quiet, now, that I love.

The silence of four hands moving
the dirt. Finn pulls another potato
from the earth, holds it up for me to see.

We shake our heads in what, awe?
Dumb wonder at our luck? And plunge
our hands deeper, deeper into the darkness.

September Harvest

they taste better,
the rosehips, after the frost,
softer and sweeter—
even so, it’s hard
to want the frost

Sometimes, if you ask
the right question,
and there infinite

right questions to ask,
then the world cracks,
not in a way that makes

it more broken, but
cracks in a way
that makes it more whole,

as if you’ve been living
in a glass tank without
knowing the glass

were there. But oh!
after the shattering,
when someone asks you,

“Does the universe
act on us or do we act on
the universe,” you feel

in your breath and your
pulse that you and the universe
are the very same thing,

you feel it with absolute
certainty even as your
mind races

to find the place
where the glass
used to be.

Nothing to Get Tense About

I imagine the surgeon’s knife
removes the part of my brain
that discriminates present
from past and what will be.
I wake up to everything.
The apple is all at once
sapling and blossom and
sweet red weight and bruise
and white flesh and stump of tree.
The forest is all at once
ash and shade and spruce
and aspen, chopped and
old growth and song-rung
and hushed. And you and I
are innocent, red handed,
coming and lost, all alone
and interlocked, weeping
and giddy, walled in and
bare, really no different
from now, my dear.

Against Reason

Body, my blessing,
my bane, my bell,
I’ve tried to ring you,
rung you well, to make
you sing, to run you
long, I’ve slung you
over lusting bones,
and loaned your hunger
to the spring then
left you wasting,
wanton, used,
I’ve spent your shine,
I’ve bruised your tune,
I’ve drowned your hips
and you, still beating,
how? still true,
you rise and flood,
you blaze and leak,
swum and broken,
wild awake.

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