Cynara scalymus. – Clair Chilvers

Cynara scalymus.

Incongruous in a herbaceous border
an artichoke stands proudly.
The cruel thistle leaves pale green
against the dark, damp, Devon soil
the stem sturdy, woody
the globes with their triangular petals
densely packed.
A cook would say that it had gone to seed.
But no, the purple flower, spiky
as a punk’s haircut,
is a wonder for a day or two
until it darkens and dies back
to a quieter shape.

Too late to pluck these globes to eat.
I imagine boiling them for twenty minutes
dipping each leaf in melted butter
my teeth stripping off the inner softness
Then saving the best ‘til last
cutting out the soft spikes from the heart
to eat the tender flesh.


Clair Chilvers started writing poetry after she retired. She was a cancer scientist and latterly a civil servant. She has published a pamphlet – Pilgrimage. Anna Saunders (founder of Cheltenham Poetry Festival) describes her work as ‘powerful and moving’.

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