'No Thank You, I Don’t Care For Artichokes,'

By Sandra M. Gilbert b. 1936
decreed my mother-in-law as my husband
passed the platter of inward-turning
soft-skulled Martian baby
heads around the table,

and they were O so shyly slyly
jostling each other with their boiled-
green sardonic gossip
(what was the news they told?)

when he sharply answered, “Mother,
have you ever
eaten an artichoke?”
                               “No,”

she said, majestic, “but I just know
I don’t care for them, don’t
care for them at all”—
for truly, if they weren’t Martian

they were at the least Italian
from that land of “smelly cheese”
she wouldn’t eat, that land of oily
curves and stalks, unnerving pots

of churning who knows what,
and she, nice, Jewish, from the Bronx,
had fattened on her Russian-
Jewish mother’s kugel, kosher

chicken, good rye bread ....
Bearded, rosy, magisterial
at forty-five, he laughed,
kept plucking, kept on

licking those narcissistic
leaves, each with its razor point
defending the plump, the tender
secret at the center, each

a greave or plate of edible
armor, so she smiled too,
in the flash of dispute,
knowing he’d give her ice cream later,

all she wanted, as the rich
meal drew to an end
with sweets dished out in the lamplit
circle, to parents, children, grandma—

the chocolate mint she craved,
and rocky road he bought especially
for her, whose knees were just
beginning to crumble from arthritis,

whose heart would pump more creakily
each year, whose baby
fat would sag and sorrow
as her voice weakened, breathing

failed until she too
was gathered into the same
blank center
where her son

at sixty bearded still, still
laughing, magisterial
(though pallid now)
had just a year before

inexplicably settled.

Sandra Gilbert, "No Thank You, I Don't Care for Artichokes" from Belongings. Copyright © 2005 by Sandra Gilbert.  Used by permission of the author and W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. This selection may not be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means without the prior written permission of the publisher.

Source: Kissing the Bread: New and Selected Poems, 1969-1999 (200)

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Poet Sandra M. Gilbert b. 1936

POET’S REGION U.S., Western

Subjects Home Life, Eating & Drinking, Social Commentaries, Youth, Parenthood, Living, Relationships, Activities

 Sandra M. Gilbert

Biography

Though widely acclaimed as a leading feminist literary critic, Sandra M. Gilbert is also a renowned poet who has published numerous collections of poetry, including the Patterson Prize winning Ghost Volcano (1997), and Kissing the Bread: New and Selected Poems 1969–1999 (2000), which won an American Book Award. Recent collections include Belongings (2006) and Aftermath: Poems (2011). Gilbert’s poetry is known for its erudition, . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Home Life, Eating & Drinking, Social Commentaries, Youth, Parenthood, Living, Relationships, Activities

POET’S REGION U.S., Western

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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