(Viviane Pasta/Unsplash)

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.

Joshua Hren is founder of Wiseblood Books and co-founder of the MFA at the University of St. Thomas, Houston. He regularly publishes essays and poems in First Things, America, Public Discourse, the Hedgehog Review, and LOGOS. His books include the short story collections This Our Exile (2018) and In the Wine Press (2020), the novel Infinite Regress (2022), as well as Middle-earth and the Return of the Common Good: Tolkien and Political Philosophy (2018), How to Read (and Write) Like a Catholic (2021), and Contemplative Realism (2022). His first book of poems, Last Things, First Things, & Other Lost Causes, is forthcoming from Little Gidding Press.

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Published in the April 2022 issue: View Contents
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