Lettuce woman

At the farmers’ market this morning
I saw the young woman who sold me lettuce last week-
a head of buttercrunch that she pulled from a bag
as I stared at the limp loose leaved plants
she had on display.

“It’s hard to keep them happy in this weather,”
she told me, smiling, holding the head
cradled in her hand, an offering.  Certainly I accepted.

I imagine her back curved like a slender sunflower stalk
pulled down with the weight of its blossoming, the flower
a confusion of gold, as she tends her garden.

With regret she roots among the feathery shoots of carrot,
playing goddess, plucking small plants to die in the sun
so the others may grow long and plump and tender.

This is the hard part, this weeding out,
not the harvest, the shearing and pulling of maturity,
when sun-spilled hands reach out to fill up the basket.

In my mind I see her life wrapped in the earth,
smiling at her lover across a table, white dishes,
cornflowers, fire weed, asters, and always

smiling, as today at her table, a tableau
with fiddle in background.  I can’t meet
her eyes as I pass by looking for my beets,
wishing I had some need of her lettuce.

Published in:
Off the Coast
September 2007

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