There is a person in this potato
the way there is a person in
the moon. I press my nose
against its brown flank.
I gather its dirt in my ear
and listen to its life underground.
Later, I eat it raw, savoring
the hard flesh and bitter minerals
like a moonflower surviving
on frozen light, like me
on this day twenty years ago,
inhaling day-old grass clippings
from my father’s shirt,
clinging to him, too ashamed
of my grief to look up, his own father
six hours dead. I was proud
of his tearlessness, as if
he had, for many years, lived
somewhere sun-bereft and airless.
That night, I peeled
one of his dreaming eyes open
and watched the brown iris rove,
a potato in a firmament of milk.
I poised a finger above
the slick surface, but I couldn’t
touch him anymore than moonlight
can warm the white roots of trees.
My daughter doesn‘t know this fear.
She would taste the dirt
from a horse’s tail or the green shoots
of rotting garlic. She would die
of her hunger for touch if I didn’t
pluck a quarter from her fingers
as she raises it to her mouth
and hand her a trowel instead.
She walks outside and levers worms
from wet dirt before re-burying them,
refusing the stillness of earth. I see
my father twice a year.
I worry about his medication,
and he hopes the years of football
spare me in the way they spare
no one we know. I know now
what it means to grieve beneath the earth
when I say to my daughter,
This is Grandpa. He lies beside her,
book in hand, reading, Now you
pat the bunny. Now you smell
the flowers. Now you put your finger
through Mummy’s ring.
She sniffs the perfumed pages,
settling against his forearm
as I orbit the room, daydreaming
words for ‘potato’ and ‘father’:
perennial, nightshade, perennial