Bart Sutter

Bog Root

Bog root, swamp stump, kale root, swede,
So called because commonly eaten
By cold country folk and our creatures—
Long-haired horses, cows, and pigs,
Who are happy enough, snuffling around
In frozen dirt and snowdrifts, to chomp
The cold purple shell of this vegetable
To get at the golden heart of the rutabaga—
That we may survive in our homes
Rather than die on the roads like so many beggars.

Are you sitting fat and sassy in the city?
Are you sipping exotic soups of Asia,
Buzzed on champagne, peppers and spice?
Hard times are coming, winter is coming,
The end of the world is on the way,
And therefore we celebrate bog root
Each year in Askov, Minnesota, the Rutabaga
Capital of the World. In Ithaca, New York,
We hold the International Rutabaga
Curling Championship and play with our food.           

The bright spade sunk in black earth
Turns up rutabagas like buried shoes,
The heads of baby dolls we cradle
And carry away to our weathered sheds.
We skin them, we cut them in cubes
To simmer in soups and stews.
We mash them with carrots and spuds
And heap them in hills on our plates,
Anointed with butter, while cracks
Quickfracture the frozen lakes,
Booming like thunder. Inside, we’re warm,
Thanks to bog root. We savor its tang
On the tongue, the tincture of cyanide
In the mellow mash by means of which we survive.

And so, while the well and all hell
Freeze over, as the bombs whistle down,
While the trees along the horizon
Explode into flame, come join with me, children,
Say: Give us this day our daily bog root.

Bart Sutter is the only author to win the Minnesota Book Award in three different categories: poetry, fiction, and creative non-fiction. His most recent collections are The Reindeer Camps and Other Poems (BOA Editions, 2012) and Chester Creek Ravine: Haiku (Nodin Press, 2015). Nodin Press will release Nordic Accordion: Poems in a Scandinavian Mood in 2018. Sutter has written for public radio, he has had four verse plays produced, and he often performs as one-half of The Sutter Brothers, a poetry-and-music duo.



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