Friday, 24 November 2017

How A Baby Resembles A Head of Lettuce

by Regina O'Melveny


As I hold you on my lap
you scan the room from
left to right, right to
left, just because you can,
sweet round boy with
morning-blue eyes.
Then on to the next room
and the garden with grass
and hedge and baby
lettuces that crowd the planter
with plump roseate faces
until they bolt into stalks that yearn
for sun and moon with all
their bright yellow eyes.

We yearn for, learn the world
this way by leafy compass and
blooming arc. Unlike
the mother once
in a Grimm’s fairy tale
who craved lettuces within
an enchanted garden and
had to exchange her baby for
the theft of greens, no small offense, 
the child whom the witch
aptly named Rapunzel
(lamb’s lettuce in German).

Though I’d retell the story
as correspondence,
lettuce for baby, baby for lettuce.
We’re speaking about the pull of
fertility here and the witch
who wisely knows
how to plant a garden.
In my version there’s no high wall
forbidding entry.

The witch is a grandmother
with earth under
her fingernails, who holds
the mysteries of seed, leaf and
and milky stalk with awe, holds the hand
of the woman, her daughter with love

deep as a taproot to the earth’s core, holds
both the ripe baby and
the bountiful head of lettuce
in her lap with delight, holds
the wide, widening gaze.