Allen Braden 


      for Kate, my sister

There's a story older than the hills 
about the rhubarb in somebody's backyard 
flourishing through the thick of winter, 
the worst blizzard anyone could recall. 

Even crazier is the part about a young couple 
who found, of all the things on earth, a baby 
cupped under the snow and leaves like umbrellas, 
who took her in and raised her as one of theirs 

and as if this wasn't miracle enough, 
just last week that mess of rhubarb 
burst through a crust of frost once more 
and that baby, now a grown woman, 

was glad and snapped each of the slender stalks 
as close to the frozen ground as she could 
and tucked them deep down in the folds of her apron 
to trundle home for scrubbing, dicing and baking 

with a boxcar of bleached flour sifted well 
and churn after churn of butter 
and granulated sugar by the gunnysack 
and handfuls of cinnamon flung in the oven. 

Then once the crust was stoked to gold 
like magic, she welcomed every household 
from across the valley to wedge after wedge 
of more than they could have ever hoped for, 

plenty more of a bitterness turned sweet. 

Copyright 1998, Allen Braden 

Allen Braden has received a grant from Artist Trust, a Grolier Poetry Prize and a Sam Ragan Prize. His poetry has appeared nationally in Shenandoah, Greensboro Review, The Southern Review and The  
Georgia Review, and locally in Poetry Northwest, Clackamas Literary Review,and Raven Chronicles. A fourth generation resident of Washington State, he grew up in White Swan and lives in Puyallup. "Rhubarb Baby" was previously published in Open Spaces, Fall 1998, and Pontoon, 1999. 

Switched-on Gutenberg/Vol. 4, No. 2