The Beet

by Jane Wong

The first time I sliced open a beet
I tumbled backward, a useless green top,
not knowing what to do with all of it:
the drenched cutting board, the organ spill
getting everywhere like the loans
I owe. I thought of lava thick as a tongue,
of my father’s ruined jaw
misshapen like a novice ceramicist’s bowl,
his teeth knocked out post gambling
brawl. I remembered singing
a lullaby for all our jaws and
scrubbing my grandmother’s feet
raw, each toe curling toward tomato vines
and water spinach legs. Naturally,
I thought of my heart, that trembling
water tower. I wanted love.
It would occur to me, later,
in the center slice, how the beet
reminded me of undressing in front of you
in the weeks before you left, the nonchalance
of each shorn sleeve, as if opening
and closing a window to air
out an apartment that held too many lives.
The beet’s anemone foot, trilling, the whittled
foot of my love, dragging. How I’ve forgotten
all the edible parts. The darker pink rings,
tree rings, years in neon lit upheaval.
Who told you anything is permanent?
How generous this bloodletting.
How elementary, my cheek against the root,
beet stamped, clownish in my blush.