for Kelly Gardiner
A clutch of rhubarb, pale green, rose blush.
Heirloom: divided from her uncle’s crown
And dispersed among the family, now grown
In this garden plot, so green and lush.
The bush, the river. Summer’s fertile hush.
We drank coffee, talked of writing, and now
She cuts me several stalks to carry down
To where the car is parked. There is no rush.
The vegetable bouquet fills my front seat.
I take it home and cook it, soft and sweet,
In the cast iron pot that was my mum’s.
Perhaps the bub will have this as a treat
Or it could be a foil to fatty meat
Look how dark and deep the colour runs.
The evening holds the heat, I sweat and stir,
And think of the mild morning spent with her.
So, in the fourteenth century the seeds
Were worth far more than opium, it’s said,
Indeed a potent drug from what I’ve read
It cured fevers, plagues and serviced other needs.
In the early eighteen hundreds close to Leeds
An apothecary finally got ahead
By learning how to grow it in a shed
Now rhubarb grows as easily as weeds.
They used as you’d expect good horse manure
“Night soil” was also merde du jour.
Let’s move on! And turn to other art
Now sugar was more readily procured
A recipe from sources quite obscure
Says cook it as one would a gooseberry tart.
In my dad’s wartime town a household tried
To stew, like chard, the leaves. They sadly died.