The Little Green Book

The Little Green Book

Hello hello! After a whirlwind semester examining the narratives of food security in Tanzania, India and Italy, I’ve decided to settle down for a bit in Spain. I decided not to blog during the program, because my head would have exploded, but my SIT family can attest that I spent an inordinate amount of time journaling. As I was leafing through the wrinkled pages, I came to two conclusions. First of all, I love words. Not exactly a surprise for any of you who know me, but more than ever I feel full to bursting with poems and stories. Secondly, I’ve been thinking really hard lately about things like women’s economic justice, seed sovereignty, the privilege of mobility, and sweet potatoes. Actually, I always think really hard about sweet potatoes.

I need a place to tell stories about things that matter to me, whether that means the rights of migrant farmworkers or my attempts to purchase peanut butter in los supermercados cordobéses. I don’t know how I feel about blogging, because I don’t want to live my life for the inter-webs… but I guess I’m already way too excited about Instagram, so might as well go the whole nine yards. As I eat a bowl of curried lentils (pro tip: lentils cook faster if you actually turn the stove on), I thought I’d start by sharing my final project from SIT. After a semester riding rickshaws, meeting rabbit-eared cows and learning about neoliberal tools of oppression, we were tasked with analyzing the potential of strategies for food systems change. In a shocking turn of events, I wrote a collection of poems about community gardens and de-colonizing diets. If you want to get real academic, I attached my artist’s statement and literature review at the end of the post, but for now enjoy some vegetable-laden poems. 

¡Abrazos y boniatos desde Córdoba!

A collard manifesto
This morning we declare independence
from regiments of sunflowers
and kale chained to buddha bowls.

We march against peaches
sold for minimum wage a pound,
and the foraging of dandelions
in the cement we poured long before
your revitalization. Of whose lives?

We condemn your fences, your wood-fired pizza,
demanding instead the artichokes of anarchy
and cabbage creeping behind churches.
We reject your paper games, breathing
the scent of forbidden limes
as we write a manifesto of collard greens.

Our kohlrabi knows no cage,
singing seeds into the morning fog.
Our beets are heartbeets,
the ruby roots of my brothers and sisters
not the feeble stalks of gentrification.

We grew here, we grow here,
so as you lie in our liberated beds,
remember a resistance that took root
with the Black Panthers and flowers
in the cracks of sidewalks.

Space to breathe
You’ve been running high on rickshaw fumes,
painting your insides with chemical carrots
(colonized). You stumble, dust-stained,
beneath birdsong and banana trees,
in search of space to breathe.

Sandals crunch on the pebbles,
past the keyholes growing rainbows of chard,
past the amaranth hanging in gazebos,
bottle gardens refracting your prismatic dreams.
Here in the living gardens,
you can hear the soil murmuring to herself.

Juliana in a blue-green kanga
paces the paths, trowel in hand,
kneeling to weed peppers and water chard.
Widowed, unwanted, she and her sisters
have learned the art of thinning carrots,
sack gardens, stewing lentils for pencils
and lightbulbs.

They will never own the Arusha sun,
but in the shade of the Themi gardens,
women stand tall like banana trees
in their space to breathe.

As they chop cucumbers to fight cancer,
they remember how their grandmothers
tended a labyrinth of taro and aubergines.
They smile as they brew cinnamon tea,
and you smile too when you taste
beetroot juice glimmering
with ginger that sings through your veins.

Calabaza for the soul
Nunca más vamos a encarcelarnos
con cadenas de ajo y cebollas,
las cáscaras secas como nuestras manos
que nunca se calentan en el sol.

Las mujeres se quedan siempre en la cocina,
cuidando por las tortillas
mientras que se ampollan en el comal.
Andamos siempre en la sombra de nuestros esposos,
sirviendo tamales con nuestros ojos al suelo.

No para nosotras florecen los árboles del hibisco
que respiran morados en la primavera,
no para nosotras los nopales frescos
cosechado debajo un cielo que extiende por millas.

Recuérdense que crecimos en el agua hirviendo,
que crecimos en el fuego de anchos
oscuros como la noche, bailando con chocolate.
Somos guerreras de la cocina, dueñas
de nuestras propias manos, y de los jardines
que crecen en el medio de adobe.

Estamos enamoradas de la tierra,
de sus conversaciones susurradas con las ranas,
estamos enamoradas de la lluvia por el amanecer.
Negamos trabajar en las fábricas neoliberales,
matándonos con la harina de la colonización.

Damos luz a las tres hermanas,
calabaza, habichuelas y maíz respirando juntos
y creciendo altos con nuestra sabiduría.
Cocinamos el mole empoderado, guajillos
y canela cantando una canción de nuestra creación.

Ginger tea
On a pomegranate gleaming evening
I sip tea with lemongrass and ginger,
chilies curled up in my belly
like cats before a fire.

My fingers stained with cardamom,
I hear the story of engineers
who fled the churning, gear-turning
clockwork of Ahmedabad.

They were sick of smog
and post-colonial maggi noodles,
sick of sacrificing health for wealth
under fluorescent lights.

They turned away from plastic packets
of spice on green revolution shelves,
inciting a vegetable riot
in the garden outside their door.

Choosing  golden afternoon hues
of cumin, coriander and mustard,
they painted a picture of resistance
with brushes of millet and sorghum.

Healing not from white coats
but manjistha, turmeric and amalaki,
growing strong on seven kinds of dal
and tea with lemongrass and ginger.

the altar of tamales
Mi madre siempre me dijo que cocinara feliz
porque mi sonrisa brillaría por la masa dorada
y calentaría los vientres de mis compadres.

Tantas noches he pasado en la cocina mía,
mis manos amaseando la masa harina,
cortando tomates para la salsa de mi mamá.

I worship not at la iglesia but at the altar of tamales,
ofreciendo a mi madre y mi abuela
the crinkling husks of corn.

I watch my people drown
in fake cheese burritos, their bodies
commodified. Así me pongo la armadura
de calabaza con una espalda de cilantro,
washing away nightmares of Taco Bell next door.

Lucho mis batallas en la cocina,
contando historias con los poblanos
que crecieron en los jardines de mis compañeros.
Mi sofrito te recordará de tu patria,
el ajo manchando tus dedos con orgullo.

Cocino los tamales de mi abuela,
con la milpa que nació de nuestra tierra madre.
Nuestros tamales cantan
de cercas vivas de milpa y habichuela,
de las rajas con queso fresco
que enciendan la chispa de libertad. 

Artist’s Statement and Literature Review 


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