Jefferson's Lettuce

Terraced furrows serve the kitchen staff, with oak-leaf lettuce,

purslane, tansy, spearmint, strawberries, chives, and chickpea.

The wide-walk terraces that grace the pillared house and dome

hide laundry (and a laundry-maid), smoking fatback, hogsheads

of beer, a Bordeaux wine cellar, Barbary horse stalls, hay-strewn

lofts for working girls, and an ice house for the winter wheat.

Sorrow, too, grows up from beds of tulips Jefferson calls Oratorio,

Queen of Sheba, Fly-Away, Black Parrot, and Fontainebleau.

The lettuce patch is a three-act play that ends with Lazarus alive.

A thousand apple trees, a vestibule with buffalo-skin sketches

from the Sioux, a map of French West Africa, a gong and clock

with counterweights to tell the day or unravel the Enlightenment.

Along Mulberry Row, porters and sawyers are shadows of a self.

Looking out over blue hills, I get a first glimpse of our democracy.

© 2013