Harvesting salad at night

First it’s the arugula, bolted,
primeval and knee-high like ferns,
snails running rampant like dinos.
Don’t discard the flowers– put them in a vase,
waste not, the flowers have no smell,
but their delicacy is at wonderful odds
with the bitterness of their leaves.

Then it’s the looseleaf lettuce, exposed
by the rocket clearcut,
the red and green oak,
the baby romaines,
the speckleds all tender, so yielding,
your fingers alone could pinch them,
not wield the scissors at all–
except a pinch so easily becomes a yank.
Don’t uproot something just making a start.

The lacinato kale (dino, tuscan, call it a rose, it’s
dusky and green and it grows more slowly) is
budding in its stolid way.
The crabgrass knows a good thing.
Follow those those blades down
with muddy, snail-slimed fingers
to yank unwanted disrespecters
of set-aside space in the kale’s personal bed,
boundaries all clearly marked.
Snick off some of the tallest,
crinkliest leaves, still no more
than twice your thumb’s width.
They’re much too good to wait
for all their forearm-length fullness.

Ignore the neighbor’s dog barking.
Ignore the floodlight next door.
Acknowledge that yes, this is the hour
of the mosquito, the eve of the bat,
and things whine, flap and slither their way
through grass you just cut and now
can’t peer through.
Dig seeking fingers into the dirt.
Plant all the crap you collected
during the day.

And then, when that’s done,
inhale the petrichor of a few drops of
summer night’s addled air,
the indecision of thunder or rainbows.
Yank a mint stalk out of the ground,
since two more will grow back in a week.
Clip a stem of lavender, two, maybe three.

And then, while you’re washing your hands,
rinsing your salad,
settling the leaves into plastic-bag
homes before you resettle your
nocturnal bounty among those who,
like you, have set aside time to tend to their gardens,
let those herbs steep with some tea,
which poured over ice doesn’t match,
in any way, shape, or means,
the radish pickle you put up
one month ago.

Turn off the lights behind you,
and sit on the back step.
Drink your tea while you let the next-door
floodlight make your spider plants look
romantic, not stalky, alien, weird.
Eat your pickles, one slice at a time,
with a fork, straight from the jar.
Listen to the snails eat what you left them.
Decide if you’re going to let the rosemary
take over the easternmost bed.
(Probably, yes.  And transplant the lavender there.
Who needs store-bought potpurri?)
Ignore that damned neighbor’s dog.

Maybe tomorrow, you’ll bring its owner some salad.
After all, your roses look lovely by floodlight.


2 thoughts on “Harvesting salad at night

  1. Dawn

    “Greens, greens, and nothing but greens:
    Parsley, peppers, cabbages and celery,
    Asparagus and watercress and
    Fiddleferns and lettuce–!
    He said ‘all right,’
    But it wasn’t, quite,
    ‘Cause I caught him in the autumn
    In my garden one night!
    He was robbing me,
    Raping me,
    Rooting through my rutabaga,
    Raiding my arugula and
    Ripping up the rampion
    (My champion! My favorite!)–
    I should have laid a spell on him right there.
    Could have turned him into stone,
    Or a dog, or a chair…” (Sondheim)


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