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Getting the Bitter Out
Lisa Rieck (bio)

I refuse to let any bitter root    remain in this small patch
of land I am tending. To the beets      and parsnips and carrots, I will
speak sweet things, coax every    pale rutabaga to burst forth
from the seed in one long exclamation.     Every day, I will risk
stings to scoop honey from the comb,     letting it drip
onto the earth’s skin like a leaky faucet     whose steadiness
will still save the parched throat.     I will tell each turnip
of the sugar that’s coming when its thin    slices rest, roasting
in the pan. I refuse to wallow     in self-pity for all
that this garden has not given me    yet. I will gather
each strong shoot with gentle hands, then      season, steam, sauté,
and simmer, releasing scents that slake    hunger on their own. And I will plate
them with the precision of a poet: red     and purple beets beside carrot
coins that draw out the rosy hue     of each radiant radish. Surely then
every bitter hint will be strained    out, broiled out, steamed
to the ceiling—out—till all that is left     for me to do with this lot
I’ve been offered is open wide, chew    slowly, savor, and swallow.

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