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Gil Fagiani

Little Flower Dethrones the Artichoke King

                                                                         New York, 1935

Free the artichokes!
the mayor’s critics shout.
The suppression of artichokes
can only lead to more vegetable suppression –
broccoli, cauliflower, spinach.
They call for a popular uprising
in the name of liberty.

Fiorello “Little Flower” La Guardia
bans the sale of carciofi – artichokes –
not the big ones served in fancy restaurants
but the small, thistly kind favored
by Italian immigrants
who stew them with mushrooms, fry them
in olive oil, add them to soups and salads.

The mayor says he wants
to free the artichokes too,
free them from the decade-old
stranglehold the Morello crime family,
led by Ciro “The Artichoke King”
Terranova, who had with California growers
a racket worth a million bucks a year.

After three days His Honor
declares victory.  Now greengrocers
can buy directly from growers.
Police pledge to protect the delivery
of small artichokes to jobbers,
retailers and pushcart peddlers.
The paesani go back to eating
their spiny delicacies without
fattening the wallets of mobsters,
while the guardians of free commerce
remain on the lookout for more
attempts at vegetable oppression.