Ode to an Artichoke


The Artichoke
Of the tender heart
Standing at attention,
In full battle garb
Builds its defensive position.
And remains unshakable,
In its armored leaves
By the raving vegetables
Bristling with inventions
Tendrils and leaf-thorns,
Tense bulbs,
Throbbing in the sub-soil
Where the carrot sleeps
In his red mustaches
And the lusty vine
Dries on the rootstock
Through which the wine climbs,
While the cabbage concentrates
On trying on skirts
And the oregano
Perfumes the world…

There the sweet Artichoke
Standing in the garden,
The innocent Artichoke,
Armed for war,
Proud as a pomegranate
Burnished like a grenade,
Awaits the day
That alongside the others
In big wicker baskets
It will go marching
Through the market
To realize its dream
Of military service
Never so martial
As at the market
Among the vegetables
Where the men
With the white shirts
Are the marshals
Of the artichokes
Closing their ranks
With commanding voices  
And the detonation
Of a falling box.

Along comes
And chooses
An artichoke,
Examines and observes it
Against the light
Like an egg,
And buys it,
And dumps it
Into her purse
Among shoes,
A cabbage,
And a bottle
Of vinegar
Back in her kitchen,  
She drowns it in a pot.

Thus ends,
In serenity,
The proud career
Of the armed vegetable
They call the Artichoke,
So that
Scale by scale,
We can undress
Its deliciousness
And eat
The peaceful paste
Of its green heart.

Pablo Neruda (trans.DHC)