Berfrois

Root Vegetables

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by Sumana Roy

Darkness is more intimate than light.
Sadness sticks closer than joy.
Just so that taste, the righteousness, of vegetables
that grow below the earth, hidden from light.
Everything sweats in summer, everything except the darkness.
Hence potatoes, and carrots, hence their sunless irreverence.

The dew on green each morning is politically correct,
being equalist, and only a gesture.
For darkness drinks less water than light.
Darkness restricts movement –
leaves cannot move inside the earth.
The leaves and the dead – how they lie still inside it,
as if waiting for a doctor, for a knife.

You’ve seen it in people, those who let the sun graze on them,
and those who never emerge out of their homes;
and again those who move and walk and those who can’t –
how that gives their voices and lives a postal address.
So with plants – roots are better prisoners than branches,
And going ‘underground’ blind metaphor.

Light nurtures beauty –
what is a potato to a cauliflower, or a lettuce to a turnip?
But darkness also has its arc. Notice the curves on a potato.
Those are the remainders of lost journeys, spent looking for light.
Hence the potato’s blind eyes. The bones of darkness have punctured them.

When, at last, they are forced out of the ground,
they are shocked by knowledge, like a bird diving into water.
They’ve never known the wind – its stickiness hits them.
In the new world, they discover fire and utilitarianism,
And knowing both, realise that life is as ordinary as food.


About the Author:

Sumana Roy’s poems, essays and short stories have been published in Granta, Guernica, Prairie Schooner, The White Review, Berfrois, Caravan, among others. She writes from Siliguri, a small town in sub-Himalayan Bengal, India, and is at sumanaroy.in.

  • Shashi Kumar

    Being a vegetarianist myself, and moreover a lover of poetry, I had never thought that one could write such a brilliant poem on root vegetables. Each and every line is so dense and replete with descriptive metaphors. I wish I could translate this into my mother tongue!

  • Susan Abraham

    ‘…and again those who move and walk and those who can’t –

    how that gives their voices and lives a postal address….’ These lines speak to me and open the mind for meditation. Thank you, Sumana. xo