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Poetry Friday

Tell it to the stove, I learned through good friends, is supposedly something Cambodians teach their children, meaning roughly: give your anger and pain, not to each other, but to the burners and broilers. (I think my Old Order Mennonite and Amish ancestors taught their children a form of this lesson. Maybe your ancestors did, too.)

Sundays in winter mean soup prep, and the soups I make these days invariably turn into something slanted, different from their accompanying photos (usually because of a spice added on a whim, or since I forgot to grab a somewhat key ingredient).

Richard Spilman’s poem “Leeks” also sits with surprise after expectation, with renewal after a long hibernation of disappointment. Renewal that’s so simple—and yet just may symbolize everything.

[…] out of the sodden ground,
Tiny blades twisting in the wound
Of the old season. It was shocking:
Nothing worse than discarded hopes
Butting in when you have given up,
Thrusting faith into comfortable loss […]

That “tiny blade” of Jesus keeps carving God’s initials into our hearts despite us. It’s shocking. And it leads me out of “the old seasons,” time after time.

—Becca Lachman

“Leeks” by Richard Spilman

 We planted the seeds in the spring
And up they came innocuous as crabgrass.
The tomatoes soon lorded over them,
And even the jalapenos, sad lumps
Hanging from their limbs like mittens
From children playing in the snow.

 They stayed that way all summer,
And before the frosts of November
We pulled them up, declaring failure,
And used them as scallions in salads.
Winter white covered the clay soil,
Like layers of dust in an unused room.

 Till spring bullied us into wakefulness:
Thunder and lightning and the gray rain
That heartens depressives with reasons
For misery, then out of the sodden ground,
Tiny blades twisting in the wound
Of the old season. It was shocking:

 Nothing worse than discarded hopes
Butting in when you have given up,
Thrusting faith into comfortable loss,
Demanding your heart again because
This time they’ve made a proper start,
This time they will rise in triumph.


“Leeks” first appeared in Image No. 73. 


The Image archive is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.

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