Peeling an Artichoke

Artichoke Head in Charcoal - Susannah Blaxill.jpeg

‘Peeling an Artichoke’

(Oct 2002)

The artichoke 

is a green glowing bulb.

I plop it on your plate,

a little hard to handle.

The steam is graceful

rising up and curving

like a line from Verdi

sung upwards

or a ring of women in white,


Arm yourself with vegetable accessories:

a little porcelain dish

filled with  hot liquid gold,

and a crisp lemon wedge

that squirts


Stir it with your fork tines.

This whole dance,

I realize,

is quite high-maintenance.

I like that somehow.

I realize too

it makes the build-up more intense.

Savor each slow stroke,

the peeling away of layers.

The outside 

can be prickly

making the insides

hard to get at.

But once you master it

it lets you in

without  the sting.

It needs to trust you.

Peel green petal meat,

slide it on your teeth,

silky nuggets,


like it ought to be.

And then you’ll find 

after gentle mining

beneath all those prickles 

and petals,

a tender center

with the texture of pearls

like sweet flesh of flowers.

Take it in your hands

and to your lips,

handle with care

my artichoke heart.

Art: Artichoke Head in Charcoal, by Susannah Blaxill.

Jessica Wilbert