It seemed to me only proper that words
Should be withheld from vegetables and birds.
—“Their Lonely Betters,” W. H. Auden
She is at home with a hard providence,
A field of measly, mealy beets,
An army of aphids repeating its beat.
Purple stems, like steel poles,
Resist her stubborn, reiterate pulls ‘til
Their leaves pale like flagged surrender.
There is no water native to this state.
Her eldest daughter, twitching thirst,
Sketches seven rivers in the dirt.
You can rub a beet between your palms
Until the warmth makes soft the meat,
Teeth turn blued-red and tear the feast.
You can chew the food for your young like a bird,
Spit it into your hand and then split it in justice
Across seven plates—to civilize the sacrifice.