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The First Artichoke
by
Diane Lockward


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Though everyone said no one could grow
artichokes in New Jersey, my father
planted the seeds and grew one magnificent
artichoke, late-season, long after the squash,
tomatoes, and zucchini.

It was the derelict in my father’s garden,
little Buddha of a vegetable, pinecone gone awry.
It was as strange as a bony-plated armadillo.

My mother prepared the artichoke as if preparing
a miracle. She snipped the bronzy winter-kissed tips,
mashed breadcrumbs, oregano, parmesan, garlic,
and lemon, stuffed the mush between the leaves,
baked, then placed the artichoke on the table.
This, she said, was food we could eat with our fingers.

When I hesitated, my father spoke of beautiful Cynara,
who’d loved her mother more than she’d loved Zeus.
In anger, the god transformed her
into an artichoke. And in 1949 Marilyn Monroe
had been crowned California’s first Artichoke Queen.

I peeled off a leaf like my father did,
dipped it in melted butter, and with my teeth
scraped and sucked the nut-flavored slimy stuff.
We piled up the inedible parts, skeletons
of leaves and purple prickles.

Piece by piece, the artichoke came apart,
the way we would in 1959, the year the flowerbuds
of the artichokes in my father’s garden bloomed
without him, their blossoms seven inches wide
and violet-blue as bruises.

But first we had that miracle on our table.
We peeled and peeled, a vegetable striptease,
and worked our way deeper and deeper,
down to the small filet of delectable heart.

From What Feeds Us (Wind Publications, 2006).
Used here with the author’s permission.

Purchase a framed print of this poem.

Diane Lockward is the author of The Crafty Poet: A Portable Workshop (Wind Publications, 2013), three poetry books, and two chapbooks. Her work has been included in numerous anthologies and journals and she runs two annual poetry events: The West Caldwell Poetry Festival and Girl Talk. Diane lives in West Caldwell, New Jersey, where she and her husband do restaurant reviews at Eating Well Reviews, www.ewreviews.com. Learn more about Diane at www.dianelockward.com.

 


New comments are closed for now.
Katrina:
I do like derelict as a noun and like the way it is licked nonetheless. Artichokes have always had architectural majesty for me, and here they grow like thistles, so this far-reaching poem offers them roots: a foundation in both ancient and modern myth.
Posted 09/06/2015 05:19 AM
Mary Lou Taylor:
I read this with pleasure. Our family, from Chicago, had never been exposed to artichokes. I will never write about the first preparation—wait. That might make a laughable poem. Beautiful poem, Dianne Lockward.
Posted 09/04/2015 04:50 PM
Mary Lou Taylor:
I read this with pleasure. Our family, from Chicago, had never been exposed to artichokes. I will never write about the first preparation—wait. That might make a laughable poem. Beautiful poem, Dianne Lockward.
Posted 09/04/2015 04:50 PM
tannerlynne:
what a wonderful poem. Layered and poignant.
Posted 09/04/2015 03:50 PM
tannerlynne:
what a wonderful poem. Layered and poignant. the last stanza zings...
Posted 09/04/2015 03:49 PM
plgoodman:
Love it, Diane. Very typical you, layered and most readable. Thanks.
Posted 09/04/2015 12:06 PM
plgoodman:
Love it, Diane. Typical you - layered and most readable!
Posted 09/04/2015 11:56 AM
erinsnana:
I loved this!
Posted 09/04/2015 11:21 AM
Glen Sorestad:
What a fine poem! Bravo, Diane.
Posted 09/04/2015 10:49 AM
KevinArnold:
What an absolutely magnificent poem. She had me with the first three words: Though everyone said . . . and then that magic word father. Bravo!
Posted 09/04/2015 09:41 AM
Cindy:
Nice. This poem is about so much more than just a vegetable.
Posted 09/04/2015 08:46 AM
Larry Schug:
Love to begin the day with a tear in my eye--a tear for beauty, honest sentiment and dynamite poetry.
Posted 09/04/2015 08:23 AM
rhonasheridan:
A perfect poem for an artichoke!
Posted 09/04/2015 06:08 AM


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