Mizuna

By: Eugenie Doyle

Mizuna, tatsoi
tokyo burkana
red kumatsu
claytonia, minutina -
I dip these foreign leaves by the bushel
into a sink pond cold and clear
and wash away the clay that coats my farm.

I toss them with fragile strips of lettuce and arugula so spicy
the smell wakes me from worry. I scoop dripping handfuls to rinse again.
I fill a second sink.
I am filled with care.
Will this meet the order, this mix for people who travel to co-ops in hybrids, toting
their personal bags and member discounts? Mock them, their privilege, fine.
I need those people.
May they multiply.

In the Big Apple, at 17, I ate only iceberg lettuce or maybe
romaine (because my mother was Italian) and
the very first cardboard tomatoes.
At those my mother shook her head but
served them just the same. I learned to mock
my food. Wonderbread? Boloney.
In what 12 ways was my body built?
Much depends on dinner but at 17 my friends traded all that for a single apple
savored at lunch. We found romance in starving.

At 17, I imagined I’d live and write in a 10th street
garret like my great uncle, also Italian,
a quiet sculptor of saints and angels.
I loved the smell of clay.

I imagined I’d live and write cramped in a place like that
with hardly a kitchen and a tiled bathroom
whose toilet required a long pull chain to flush.
I imagined permission to contemplate and create world-saving works amidst
the smell of clay.

What happened?
None of that.
This did:
I farm in a valley of clay my children
used to sculpt birds’ nests and bombs while I weeded nearby.
I grow food for lucky people, aware people.
I arrange it as still life.
Tasks are endless because life is one meal after another.
Contemplation is rare, but helps.
All my dreams are fresh, wet, draining before me
Edible, perishable.
At 17 I couldn’t imagine a world, my world, would depend
on washing clay from colored leaves in a sink.