Ode to the Artichoke

by Pablo Neruda
Translated by Margaret Sayers Peden

The tender-
hearted artichoke
dressed in its armor,
built its modest cupola
and stood
erect,
impenetrable
beneath
a lamina of leaves.
Around it,
maddened vegetables,
ruffling their leaves,
contrived
creepers, cattails,
bulbs, and tubers to astound;
beneath the ground
slept
the red-whiskered carrot;
above, the grapevine
dried its runners,
bearers of the wine;
the cabbage
preened itself,
arranging its flounces;
oregano
perfumed the world,
while the gentle artichoke
stood proudly in the garden,
clad in armor
burnished
to a pomegranate
glow.
And then one day,
with all the other artichokes
in willow baskets,
our artichoke
set out to market
to realize its dream;
life as a soldier.
Amid the ranks
never was it so martial
as in the fair,
white-shirted
men
among the greens
marshaled
the field of artichokes;
close formations,
shouted commands,
and the detonation
of a falling crate.
But
look,
here comes
Maria
with her shopping basket.
Unintimidated,
she selects
our artichokes,
examines it, holds it to
the light as if it were an egg;
she buys it,
she drops it
in a shopping bag
that holds a pair of shoes,
a cabbage head, and one
bottle
of vinegar.
Once home
and in the kitchen
she downs it in a pot.
And thus ends
in peace
the saga
of the armored vegetable
we call the artichoke,
as
leaf by leaf
we unsheathe
its delights
and eat
the peaceable flesh
of its green heart.

How do you feel about artichokes? What vegetable would you write an ode to?

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