Digging Potatoes, Sebago, Maine
Summer squash and snap-beans gushed all August, tomatoes in a steady splutter through September. But by October's last straggling days, almost everything in the garden was stripped, picked, decayed. A few dawdlers: some forgotten carrots, ornate with worm-trail tracery, parsley parched a patchy faded beige. The dead leaves of potato plants, defeated and panting, their shriveled dingy tongues crumbling into the mud. You have to guess where. The leaves migrate to trick you. Pretend you're sure, thrust the trowel straight in, hear the steel strike stone, hear the song of their collision—this land is littered with granite. Your blade emerges with a mob of them, tawny freckled knobs, an earthworm curling over one like a tentacle. I always want to clean them with my tongue, to taste in this dark mud, in its sparkled scatter of mica and stone chips, its soft genealogy of birch bark and fiddleheads, something that means place, that says here, with all its crags and sticky pines, its silent stubborn brambles. This is my wine tasting. It's there, in the potatoes: a sharp slice with a different blade imparts a little milky blood, and I can almost smell it. Ferns furling. Barns rotting. Even after baking, I can almost taste the grit.
From The Helen Burns Poetry Anthology: New Voices from the Academy of American Poets University & College Prizes, Volume 9. Copyright © 2010 by Amy E. King. Used by permission. All rights reserved.