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Digging Potatoes, Sebago, Maine

Amy E. King
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.

Amy E. King