In Down East Maine, I’m told that the potatoes are usually planted in May, around the time when dandelions appear. In this week’s poem, that spring planting is used as an occasion to consider what potatoes tell us about our future.

Leonore Hildebrandt is the author of a letterpress chapbook, “The Work at Hand,” and a full-length collection, “The Next Unknown.” A native of Germany, Hildebrandt lives “off the grid” in Harrington, teaches writing at the University of Maine, and serves on the editorial board of the Beloit Poetry Journal. Hildebrandt’s poem also will appear in the Maine Farmland Trust 2017 “Maine Farms,” an annual journal, and on Maine Poet Laureate Stuart Kestenbaum’s “Poems from Here” segment on Maine Public Radio.

Thinking Potatoes

By Leonore Hildebrandt

French Fingerlings. Magic Molly.

In a shallow box by the window

this year’s tubers warm to the thought

of growing. They understand fertility

as a sequence of moves. Fuzzy sprouts

push from the dust-shriveled skin,

eyes urge toward an opening.

Obliging, I will place each tuber

into the soil of their dark-days

like others before me – a line of planters

who have bent over shallow trenches,

who have hilled and watered

and in summer marveled at elegant plants

bearing white and purple blooms.

The strength of these earth companions –

to burrow down and resurrect.

In the Andes, the world-mother is offered

a meal and a sprinkling of chicha.

Does she fathom the depth of our hunger?

Cradled in my hand, this nightshade

offers something like a future.

Gibson Fay-LeBlanc is Portland’s poet laureate. This column is produced in collaboration with the Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance. Poem copyright © 2015 Leonore Hildebrandt. It appeared in “Otis Nebula,” fall 2015, and appears here by permission of the author.

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