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Never wasteful, you kept each cabbage’s heart.

The leaves
we sliced thinly with our sharpest knives before rubbing
them with salt & weighting them in my grandmother’s
crocks. You had found them in the basement when we
moved in, thrilled by their stability & heft.
                                                                         We’d wait
for the kraut to lose its water into the brine & ferment
& then roast pork in it on New Year’s Day for good luck.

It’s hard with the other brassica, throwing away the stems
of Brussels sprouts, pulling the leaves & cutting the hard core
from cauliflower.

Their parts too tough. But you insisted
that we keep the hearts to pickle. Something fresh for the winter,

you’d say, even though the last thing I wanted
was to pull cold white cabbage from vinegar like bones,

unable to confuse their coolness for freshness,
even as we tried to ignore their salt-induced stasis.

Breaking our habits, I slice the cabbage on the mandolin,
uncertain the cuts are right.
                                                    I can’t bear to keep the hearts.
It seems like so much work. I throw them in the compost
pile & when I dig a shovel in to turn the dirt, they poke
out, un-decomposed, skeletal.

When I check the crocks, scum
has overtaken the lot. I try to skim it off the top but, when it
returns, I abandon the whole of it.