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ICEBERG LETTUCE

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What vegetable leviathan
extends beneath the dinner table,
an unseen, monstrous green that pulls
the chair out from under our faith
 
in appearances: see a mere tuft
of leaf on the plate like a wing,
but if it flies away, it undoubtedly
will disturb the continental drift
 
asleep under the salad plate,
the hidden world we forget
as we reach for the smaller fork—
(and now, mouth full, don't speak: politely
 
chew your leaf of firmament
that's torn and tossed up in vinegar here as
we'll be tossed before its vast
root maybe someday or any moment).

Source: Poetry (Poetry)

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This poem originally appeared in the January 1999 issue of Poetry magazine

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ICEBERG LETTUCE

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  • Joanie Mackowski’s collections of poems are The Zoo (2002) and View from a Temporary Window (2010). She received a BA from Wesleyan University, was a Stegner Fellow in Poetry at Stanford University, and received a PhD from the University of Missouri. A professor at Cornell University, she has worked as a French translator, a journalist in the San Francisco Bay Area, and a juggler. She is the winner of the 2003 Kate Tufts Discovery award, and the 2008 Writer Magazine/Emily Dickinson award.
     
    Her poetry is marked by precise details and attention to the sounds of language; the lines of her poems echo with slant and internal rhymes. Sometimes eerie and often grounded in scientific facts, her poetry scrutinizes insects, plants, animals, and the self. Of her work, Mackowski has said, “I try to ask questions about what makes us separate individuals and also about what brings us together, in...

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