The Greens

by Ronnie Sirmans

Collard greens look like a weed,
so I’ve never had much desire
for any home-brewed potlikker.
“Collards stopped being weeds
when we started growing them
on purpose,” Grannie informed me.

“Just like a rose,” my daddy retorted,
“once that old weed became tamed,
we declawed it and thought of all kinds
of names for the colors we discovered.”
“Only so many names in the world,”
grinning Grannie told my daddy.

Some people’s smiles can hurt you
more than if they slapped your face.

I’d name a rose to envy peas’ verdancy,
the shelled legumes with their faint hues
like smooth greenbacks of small beetles.
Pea plants have so many blooms that fall
to the soil before we can denote the tint,
the blends of white, green, or in-between.

I haven’t picked peas in such a long time.
My nostalgia notes the plants’ tendrils
curling like bass clefs and treble clefs.
Greens make for a good mess of names,
eaten until we’re full of hues, but I’ll still
dis that trinity of collard, turnip, mustard.

Keep smiling about the greens just like
we go on laughing aloud with the blues.


Ronnie Sirmans is a metro Atlanta newspaper journalist whose poems have appeared in Tar River Poetry, The South Carolina Review, The American Journal of Poetry, Gravel, Wraparound South, Unlost Journal and elsewhere. His work has appeared previously in Deep South Magazine during National Poetry Month. 

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