Trish Hopkinson, “Uprooted,” 2021 Jack Grapes Poetry Prize Finalist selected by Judge Mariano Zaro
This poem, articulated in perfectly paced tercets, is an exercise of specificity: “My mother pulled out the rhubarb”. This simple action, intensified throughout the poem, becomes a symbol of the relationship between humankind and nature. Without leaving the confined space of this “vegetable garden” the reader witnesses determination, persistence, creativity (“When the garden grows poison, make pie), surrender (“The rhubarb still grows, unharvested”).
— Mariano Zaro
My mother pulled out the rhubarb, its roots
squelching her vegetable garden
but later in the summer it came back
as if it had never been bothered.
So she dug a hole beneath it, two-foot deep,
convinced she got every root.
They say, a weed is but an unloved flower,
but my mother would say that isn’t true.
When the rhubarb returned the next Spring,
not unlike my father, she gave up
and watered it plenty, so it wouldn’t filch
nutrients needed by the carrots, tomatoes, and turnips.
When the garden grows poison, make pie.
She harvested the pink-tinted stalks,
chopped away the toxic leaves,
then mixed the bitter chunks
with strawberries and a cup of sugar.
When she tasted it, her face twisted
—she added more sugar and then
even more, before baking it between crusts.
She tried to tell us it’s just like strawberry
but she knows that’s a lie; she never made
the pie again. The rhubarb still grows, unharvested
—big as a mountain lion, wilder than rabbitbrush.
Photo credit: Kenzie Klumker
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