Ransacking The Archive: The Lonely Potato Farmer

Ms. Modigliani flatly rejected the idea of wintering in Monaco after reading about Princess Caroline’s lost poem. “So now you’re sending poems to princesses?”

“That was thirty years ago. I told you about that.”

“You tell me lots of things. I don’t take it seriously until I see it in writing.”

She was equally dubious in the early days of our courtship when I told her this poem was written with her in mind. Maybe she”ll believe me now.

The Lonely Potato Farmer

Some people scrub them compulsively
paring them down to perfect
cubes of starch, 300 calories, no butter.
I like to hold them in my hand, judging
the heft and lump of body parts.
This one could be a fist,
that one a heart or monkey’s brain.
Every October I dig deeper in the furrow
hoping to unearth one as big as the brain
of a French philosophe
Voltaire, maybe, or Georges Cuvier.
Imagine a dirt-caked Katahdin
or Red Lakota as smug and capacious
as the mind of René Descartes.
It thinks, therefore we’ll eat it.
I find a few more of the secretive ones,
overlooked and unmarketable,
next year’s seed. Like my testicles,
I think, washing each gently before
dropping it, unchopped, into the stew.
On long winter nights I linger over
potato bins in the market. When no one’s
watching I lift 20-lb. mesh bags
to smell Idaho, Michigan, Maine
to remember that hot morning in June
when you stopped my heart and held my gaze
with the simplest pale flowers and the promise
of shimmering, salted skin
as you slipped from your sun dress.

Maybe, like the Stones song we danced to on the night we met, it was just my imagination running away with me. Maybe not.

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2 Responses to Ransacking The Archive: The Lonely Potato Farmer

  1. ms modigliani says:

    A response to my blind flaneur

    What Was Told, That

    What was said to the rose that made it open was said
    to me here in my chest.

    What was told the cypress that made it strong
    and straight, what was

    whispered the jasmine so it is what it is, whatever made
    sugarcane sweet, whatever

    was said to the inhabitants of the town of Chigil in
    Turkestan that makes them

    so handsome, whatever lets the pomegranate flower blush
    like a human face, that is

    being said to me now. I blush. Whatever put eloquence in
    language, that’s happening here.

    The great warehouse doors open; I fill with gratitude,
    c hewing a piece of sugarcane,

    in love with the one to whom every that belongs!
    Rumi ‘s poem, translated by Coleman Barks

    Here’s Coleman reading the poem on You Tube:

    Ms M

  2. Mark Willis says:

    Whatever makes the sugar cane sweet! Thanks, [Ms. M]. What a voice Coleman Barks ha… stubborn as the Rock of Ages, smooth as Old Gran Dad.

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