She kept the potatoes beneath the kitchen sink
in a dank place I never dared to enter.
But at fall planting time Mother always sent me
down into that moldy smelling cupboard,
where the potatoes looked soft, even shriveled;
some had grown white shoots in darkness.
I’d rip open the netting, feeling the thick dirt
on my hands, as I gathered potatoes in a bowl,
then met my mother out in the back garden.
There I’d find her shadow moving quickly,
raking the plot, and using her strong hands
to make rows and rows of divots in the earth.
My little hands copied my mother’s hands,
as one by one we buried potatoes together,
while Mother confessed to me about her affair.
If only he would leave that wife, she’d chuckle.
Then, as the sun set over our backyard,
she paused, turned to me and asked,
Don’t you think I ought to leave your Father?
I thought of Mother’s question, without a clue
that years later I’d find it impossible to sleep;
or that our plants might one day sprout long legs,
and march crooked into my dreams at night.
Father’s piano thundered from the living room
as I whispered to my mother, Yes— leave him.
Then we covered up the plot with layers of hay,
and in the darkness turned on all the sprinklers.
JODIE HOLLANDER was raised in a family of classical musicians. She studied poetry in England, and her work has been published in The Poetry Review, PN Review, The Dark Horse, The Rialto, Verse Daily, The New Criterion, Australia’s Best Poems of 2011, and Australia’s Best Poems of 2015. Her debut full-length collection, My Dark Horses, is published by Liverpool University Press in the U.K. and Oxford University Press in the U.S.
image: Duncan McGregor Whyte, Potato Planters (detail), (1866-1953, date unknown)