Banking Potatoes

Daddy would drop purple-veined vines

Along rows of dark loam

& I'd march behind him

Like a peg-legged soldier,

Pushing down the stick

With a V cut into its tip.

Three weeks before the first frost

I'd follow his horse-drawn plow

That opened up the soil & left

Sweet potatoes sticky with sap,

Like flesh-colored stones along a riverbed

Or diminished souls beside a mass grave.

They lay all day under the sun's

Invisible weight, & by twilight

We'd bury them under pine needles

& then shovel in two feet of dirt.

Nighthawks scalloped the sweaty air,

Their wings spread wide

As plowshares. But soon the wind

Knocked on doors & windows

Like a frightened stranger,

& by mid-winter we had tunneled

Back into the tomb of straw,

Unable to divide love from hunger.

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