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Grey Sparrow Journal

Issue 30, July 31, 2017
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CULTURAL CONCEPTS

 

In the huge vegetable market

in a Guangzhou neighborhood

I see the fat fists of broccoli

on the table, the old man

watching me, left eye damaged

and drooping. I point to one bunch

and he plucks it up and puts it

bare on the scale.  Too late I realize

it’s the grungiest scale I’ve ever seen,

has probably never been clean since

it was new around 1949.

It’s crusted with residue,

layers of it, an archeological

find, rusted in places, and there my

broccoli rests, which I was planning

to cook for my family.  There’s no path out—

I weigh/you buy is a universal contract

between a shopper and the grocer.

I learned this lesson early watching

my mother have vegetables weighed

in the A & P.  I pay the man, place the

broccoli in my canvas bag.  Later, I’ll

wash it, then steam it, forgetting all

the lessons of bacteria, microbes, 

linked viruses in cascading chains.


                                        -Karen Loeb