Two Poems: Leafy Green Vegetables and Coffee Sestina

01 January 2013

ABOUT THE POEM These long poems by Annie Zaidi declare their subjects in their titles: greens and coffee. But in both poems these substances (and the poetic forms employed to describe them) work a long trail through particular human stories and structures. At first it seems as if the speaker of “Leafy Green Vegetables” is composing an innocent health-homily, the kind that might be used to educate children in the rigours of healthy eating and in the pleasures of language and rhyme. But slowly a second figure begins to emerge in the poem, a listener different from the reader. This person seems to be furtive, submissive, a scrounger impoverished in both shell and spirit, pressured both by the hierarchies of his or her society and the grand schemes of the state. Even what hope he nurtures is “creeping”, after the manner of his body. Speaker and subject are united in a relationship of empathy; there is someone watching when the person in the poem “folds away the dream”. In “Coffee Sestina”, the voice we hear speaks from within the world of the poem; the person whom she addresses is also the source and sharer of the poem’s references to common experiences, pleasures, and discords. The poem is one of hopeful, even practical, pessimism: the speaker wants to make a new start by repeating something, to set up a ground of freedom and mutuality by proposing restraints. The word “coffee” pops up in each stanza, the central motif around which the speaker wheels and muses. In the “Come, let’s look for coffee” of the envoi—a sestina’s three-line close—it seems as if one coffee-cycle is over in the life of the speakers and another is about to begin.

Leafy Green Vegetables

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Annie Zaidi  is the author of Known Turfs: Bantering with Bandits and Other True Tales and the encounter of The Bad Boy's Guide to the Good Indian Girl.