At the market with you after staring at Delaroche’s La Jeune Martyre (1855) when I thought I was looking for Waterhouse’s Ophelia (1894) but was really looking for Millais’s Ophelia (1851-2) on the Internet
Green wind in May. The first leafy things to poke out of the dirt, plucked. And gathered in weepy
bundles on the local produce shelf. Already ochre at the edges.
The mist machine hisses. The next shelf over, the baskets are plump with tacky green apples and
bitter tangerines. Impossible pineapples. This local stuff, meanwhile, glistening products of melted
snow and occasional sun beginning to wilt and bruise, untethered. Thirsty.
Candy beets, green kale, purple cabbage, velvet endives and little radishes.
Pause here. French breakfast radishes, Raphanus raphanistrum (wild) or raphanus sativus (cultivated).
There. Perfect smallness. Their color, blush.
The color of early mornings as we spin closer in proximity to the sun. Shaped like robins eggs.
The cows across the river mooed all night, do you remember? We were trying to sleep as they cast
their brimming voices against the hillside. Hm. Those cows. We must have slept some, anyhow.
Sleep. Breath over your lips, river rushing over the dam, that endless mooing, mooing, mooing,
the neighbor’s dog whining from the third floor window. I even thought the stars were shuffling,
shaking their legs, unsettled. I try to be silent. I think of silence.
I can’t help it. I’ve heard there is nothing more poetic than the death of young woman, or so.
I can’t help it. I bathe in it, like orchid water. The image. The image of my body, growing cool now in
the evening, like it does. You, laying my cool body right down in the earth on a bed of radish greens.
Nothing else though, an Ophelia’s burial, dress pressed in the mud, held by mama earth,
at night, in secret, only a few witnesses, my laced fingers and blue wrists all tangled
and tied in the flowers that drowned us/me/her.
Anyway, on a bed of radish greens, sprinkled all around with their pebbly seeds,
like the grains of gray sand on the beach of a frozen lake, yes, that’s how they are. Then a bit of sod
to cover me. Would you, would you curse the stars? Don’t tell me. But either way, water me
and the radish seeds when you think of it. Water us until the sky is in puddles at your feet. Then wait.
There will be sprouts on this side of the mud, Ophelia’s and mine. They will grow a bright peppery
taproot, pink and alive. And the next spring, there will be a small harvest.
Up with the radish greens will rise one free and organic woman, brushing the mud off, untangling,
stretching, walking, on a pink moon night, like this, barefoot and dew-covered among the radish
flowers, white petals with purple center, Raphanus raphanistrum.
Following the cow’s call—ahh, hmm, that’s why they moo so. Those cows.
I will come through the woods, across the river, past the neighbor’s house—you’ll hear the dog bark
when I rustle the lilacs—and back to you. Just as every morning. Just as this morning.
And now I find you the next aisle over, counting all the kinds of cooking oils.
Olive, extra virgin, coconut, avocado, hazelnut, grape seed.
I think you are going to laugh. Pause here.
There is nothing more poetic than the death of a young woman, maybe so,
except, I think, for her life, and all she hungers.