Explore O:JA&L’s Buttonhook Press offerings on Amazon.
Subscribe to the O:JA&L YouTube channel.
Become an O:JA&L Member through Patreon.

Ellen Lager


Like a new page in her journal of days, she opens the garden gate.
Jorge Luis Borges

Rhubarb by Nikolai Astrup

Beyond the garden gate, the early spears emerge.
I feel the pulse of sun-softened soil despite neglect,
despite endless winter fatigue. I breathe in the scent
of matted field grasses surrounding the old clapboard,

long to see my father in bib overalls, ball cap,
hunched over sturdy stalks.

Try one, he’d offer.

I dared bite down on the pinky-red shoot,
my lips puckered sour. He’d grin and snap more stems
from the base of the leafy crown,
slice off the ends and warn, Never eat the leaves.

Helping him rinse, dry the slender petioles,
we stripped fibers, cut them into inch-size pieces.

Later, freezer jammed with bounty,
crunches, crumbles, and crisps filled the kitchen.

Apple, blueberry, peach rhubarb layered beneath oatmeal,
brown sugar, flour and butter crumbs,
saucy cobblers warmed the house
with mysterious rhubarb pairings—

cranberries, cherries, red currants mixed with tapioca
layered below the braided lattice of pies
all baked with the right amount of sugar for syrupy tartness.

Today, stopping by the old place, a lone rhubarb plant thrives.
I sense his voice, You can’t kill rhubarb,
and tug out one precocious stalk. My ache vanishes.


About the writer:
Ellen Lager’s work has been published in The MacGuffin, Neologism, Sheila-Na-Gig, Litbreak, Haunted Waters Press, Halfway Down the Stairs, Sanskrit, and Vita Brevis Nature Anthology III, as well as others. She is a Pushcart nominee and currently at work on her first full-length poetry collection. She has a Bachelor of Science and Master of Education degree from the University of Minnesota, and lives in a suburb of Minneapolis spending much of the year at a lake cabin with her husband, two rambunctious dogs and two unruffled cats.

Image: Rhubarb by Nikolai Astrup (1880-1928). Oil on canvas. 93 x 112 cm. 1911. Public domain.

OJAL Art Incorporated, publishing since 2017 as OPEN: Journal of Arts & Letters (O:JA&L) and its imprint Buttonhook Press, is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation supporting writers and artists worldwide.

Become an O:JA&L Member through Patreon.