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


Matthew Sumpter