Linda Dove

St. Nicholas of Tolentino Confronts His Moral Ambivalence in the Buffet Line

I grow weary seeing the vegetables,
boiled and cut, mashed, rubbed in oil

to within an inch of their pretty skins.
I have loved each one of them. Roots

hanging down into dirt as if the ground
held an eave of icicles. I tremble

at their dark reach. The carrot’s orange
oblivion, the hoops of lavender around

the turnip head. Or the shiny froth of kale,
the way a cabbage cups its holy center.

I am not removed from their fanciful
life. I shuffle my tray along the line,

scooping warmed-over sides
onto my plate. I think of the garden,

the hot pink weight of a beet in hand.
I do not understand how this hunger

can be so easy. How I can suffer the leeks
to be sliced and scalded. How I do not

wither at the sight of the cucumber,
peeled back to its wet interior.

We settle our needs at our peril. I find
myself blaming the soul for language.