Friday, November 9, 2007

Poetry in Place

Photo by Stephen Ausmus.

Cloudscome over at a wrung sponge is hosting a Poetry in Place event for Poetry Friday at her blog. I was captivated by the idea. This is it: go out and post a poem somewhere where people will read it, preferably where people have to wait, like in front of elevators or on a bus. Choose a poem that relates to the place where it's being posted.

It's amazing where a web search will lead you. I decided I wanted a poem about food, but found I had to be more specific. How about carrots? I found one immediately:
Have merits.
(Purportedly from a picket sign in front of a McDonalds located where there were no farmers' markets or fresh produce stores.) Anonymous, unfortunately.

But I dug deeper, past the lyrics to "Carrot Juice is Murder" by the Arrogant Worms, past the Carrot Museum (with a page of paintings depicting carrots through the centuries and some gorgeous photos of purple carrots which I vow to grow next season), and even beyond to a blog with a poem about weeding in a carrot field written by a 19th-century poet named Susan Pendleton. (And who had also read and enjoyed the carrot weeding poem? cloudscome! Is the blogosphere really that small?) But I finally settled on this poem by Cynthia Gallaher:

Volcanic Vegetables: Carrots

I never guessed there were volcanoes in Illinois,
until I found them in my own garden.
Now, it happens every fall,
when I’m led to tall crater tops
issuing feathery green smoke.

I dig around gently in pitch-black earth
and touch something just beneath the surface,
where emerges the orange-hot lava of carrots
urged out in thick, hearty bunches.
I always make sure to wear gloves.

It’s rumored carrots are good for the eyes,
yet who can’t help but see their radiance
when garden work is done
and twilight duskiness rises
like a dark mountain.

No matter how cold and crisp to the touch,
the carrots glow
like candles in my basket,
as they lead me up the
backstairs of my house.
I wash away a layer of mud and
pretend the carrots have been waiting all summer
to be released from their ebony underworld,
from their earthly wrap,
to their full expression on my brazen stove.

I slice each root,
carrot circles wink approval,
and the steamer collects a cache
which I cook and am paid
in richly colored coins to do so.

After dinner, I toss one from my plate
back into the earth for good luck.
Soon, the curling autumn fog rolls in, followed by winter snows,
cooling this upheaval of golden abundance
in layers of chalky ash.

by Cynthia Gallaher
Here is her blog. I found the poem at the carrot museum site.

It seemed slightly subversive to post this at the grocery store, so I did. It's in the s-l-o-w elevator (from the parking lot on the roof to the main level).


Cynthia Gallaher said...

Daphne -- Many thanks for lending exposure to Volcanic Vegetables and plugging the blog. I harvested the purple carrots late last month and they were earthy and extra tasty when cooked. And yes, screaming orange in the middle despite their rustic, humble exterior.

Cloudscome said...

YAY YAY YAY!!! I am so thrilled with your carrot poems. I wish I could go to your grocery store just to see the poem in place.

Daphne said...

Cynthia, thanks for the purple carrot report. I'm going to order those seeds. Cloudscome, I'm thinking of ducking back in to the elevator today to see if it's still there!

TadMack said...

What a fabulous, FABULOUS poem, and the picture -- !!!

We moved to Scotland in September, and I can't get over the different colors of organic carrots. We have ...carrots such a deep orange that they are tinged with red, and such paleness... definitely lava carrots!!

Daphne said...

Just have to report: it's Wednesday, and the poem's still there!