Oda do Kapusty i Polski Ludzie
(Ode to Cabbage and the Polish People)

by Sherine Elise Gilmour

I love your green heads, hard and heavy,
purple heads, small and sweet.
I love your white heads, worried and socially inept
like the kid who forgets to wear deodorant to school on gym day.
Bok choy, oxheart, Jersey wakefield, and Dutch flat.
Meteor, Scarlet O’Hara, Red Rodan, and January King!
How you huddle in the grocery store bin,
hiding behind each other, so demure.
No need to be so shy around me.
Cheap, hardy, long lasting, available all year round.
I love to slice any head of you.
First the struggle to cut out the hard thick core,
the danger of slicing into my own finger by mistake.
Then the ribbons of vegetable falling away from the knife.
When my husband and I eat at Junior's Diner,
I always take his paper cup of you, in a bath of vinegar.
Coleslaw, regretted child, side dish, most customers throw out.
When I was a child, we put you in everything:
sauerkraut with potatoes, stuffed in pierogi with roasted meat,
cabbage stuffed with meat and rice as golabki,
and simmered with kielbasa in water to form a simple broth—my favorite.
In college, I used to hide my love of you,
wait until weekends my roommates traveled away,
then buy you fermented in bags and in jars at the grocery store
and eat you in the dimly-lit rental house
sitting at the dinner table, with a fork, spoon, and one large white plate!
Sometimes, yes, I'd mind how you’d give me gas.
But now, I love how you mark me.
At the farmers market, I am the only one
ogling your clean curved heads, veined leaves.
I reach for your sensual heft.
Trying to pick, I hold two of you next to my chest
and feel pleasantly obscene!
You make me remember words we used
in my old Polish neighborhood:
strong like bull,
God’s workhorses.
Now, I am grown and can see the smear campaign.
The bad propaganda hasn’t worked on me.
Cabbage in my mouth,
cabbage in my veins,
cabbage in my belly.
When I look at you, I see my someday baby
in your cowlick-curled crown.
Someday I’ll give birth to a cabbage.
My child, my stallion of the field.

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