Poetry International Poetry International
Poem

Eileen Sheehan

Brassicas

Brassicas

Brassicas

There was no sex in our village there was only
cabbage. Row upon row of it filling the haggards
on high, straight ridges. This is where babies came from 
we were told, in all seriousness. My sister still remembers 
being shown the exact head that she was discovered under.
We knew everything about growing the small, limp
plants that needed constant watering. Learned how to protect them 
from root fly and caterpillar infestations. Recognized the different varieties,
from January King to Curly Kale, sewn in sequence for year-round cropping.
Instructed that it was never harvested until the hearts were firm and babies
were something only grown-up women found. Of sex
we knew nothing. We all hated it; the dank smell of it cooking
that permeated through the whole house for hours
after it was eaten, the sloppy look of it on the plates,
the run-off staining the spuds and bacon. But it was 
good for us so we were made to finish it. Remember
how mother would add a teaspoon of soda to the water 
to soften the fibers? Years later, I learnt that this destroys 
the flavour, disarms the vitamins. The myth was easy
to believe in a farming community until our hormones and
neighbours’ sons, well educated in animal husbandry,
illuminated the shortcomings in our education.  
                                                                                   Oh my sisters, 
we are the daughters of cabbages and should celebrate our 
cruciferae lineage; tough and sinewy of a strong variety,
adaptable to any climate, winter hardy;
                                                                     never ones to take
ourselves too seriously: when I think on it, 
my sisters, all that green we swallowed.
 
Close

Brassicas

There was no sex in our village there was only
cabbage. Row upon row of it filling the haggards
on high, straight ridges. This is where babies came from 
we were told, in all seriousness. My sister still remembers 
being shown the exact head that she was discovered under.
We knew everything about growing the small, limp
plants that needed constant watering. Learned how to protect them 
from root fly and caterpillar infestations. Recognized the different varieties,
from January King to Curly Kale, sewn in sequence for year-round cropping.
Instructed that it was never harvested until the hearts were firm and babies
were something only grown-up women found. Of sex
we knew nothing. We all hated it; the dank smell of it cooking
that permeated through the whole house for hours
after it was eaten, the sloppy look of it on the plates,
the run-off staining the spuds and bacon. But it was 
good for us so we were made to finish it. Remember
how mother would add a teaspoon of soda to the water 
to soften the fibers? Years later, I learnt that this destroys 
the flavour, disarms the vitamins. The myth was easy
to believe in a farming community until our hormones and
neighbours’ sons, well educated in animal husbandry,
illuminated the shortcomings in our education.  
                                                                                   Oh my sisters, 
we are the daughters of cabbages and should celebrate our 
cruciferae lineage; tough and sinewy of a strong variety,
adaptable to any climate, winter hardy;
                                                                     never ones to take
ourselves too seriously: when I think on it, 
my sisters, all that green we swallowed.
 

Brassicas

Sponsors
Gemeente Rotterdam
Nederlands Letterenfonds
Stichting Van Beuningen Peterich-fonds
Ludo Pieters Gastschrijver Fonds
Hendrik Muller fonds
Lira fonds
J.E. Jurriaanse
Literature Translation Institute of Korea
Partners
LantarenVenster – Verhalenhuis Belvédère