When dark nights eat up afternoons
I sweat onions in sunflower oil,
weigh out carrots, a swede
and tapering baby parsnips
with age-old skins on flesh
that fattened underneath the light
in a cradling of clay, grit, stones.
I take the swede, a misshapen globe
marred with scars, cut it in two.
The apricot bulk makes my head
hum with summer. I slice up
the snow-white parsnips, then tip
lentils, seeds of a butterfly-
petalled plant, into the pan.
Opening the door to throw peelings
in a pail, I bump into snouting cold.
It smells of woodsmoke, bites
as I stare at the park bristled
with black. Frost is stiffening leaves,
grasses, and I feel myself woven
to this landÂ’s Saxon past when winter
was a giant who trampled crops in fields,
snuffed breath with icicle fingers Â–
though this was not the country
of my forbears, though rootlessness
was a wound I bore till turned thirty,
I was warmed enough by love
to put down roots in myself.
When chill sinks its teeth in my ribs,
I retreat to the stove, dip a spoon.
The heat-swollen lentils are melting
among the hulking vegetables,
and yellow-brown as November woods.
I add lemon and fried spices,
stir them in, ladle the stew.
I think in these times of undeclared war between patriots and the Bush junta that is terrorizing our country, we all have moral obligations, obligations to each other. One of them is to nourish ourselves, emotionally, physically, spiritually, intellectually. The junta wants to make us believe that the world is dangerous, dark, narrow. We can fight back by not believing them, by doing both great acts and small acts that support the continued existence of the world as it really is: immanently divine, crammed with heaven, connected, determined to spawn and support life in all its forms.
Go make yourself some root vegetable stew
. Freeze some for that night in November when an early dark, icy rain, and the junta's next act of terror drives you home in despair. We can never allow despair to win for more than the few moments it takes to beat it back. We owe that to each other.