As we start planning our elaborate Thanksgiving menus, I’d like to share Betsy Sholl’s paean to the humble potato. Her poem praises the common spud as a source of nourishment and endurance, and reminds us of the simple but fundamental miracle of feeling full, of feeling fed.

Betsy Sholl’s ninth collection is “House of Sparrows; New and Selected Poems.” She teaches in the master of fine arts program at Vermont College.



By Betsy Sholl


Your tuber fingers fuse into a fist.

All your strength’s sealed inside,

with your eyes like antennae

so you see feelingly, till what you see

makes you soft.  Lump, lumpen,


last in line when it comes to beauty,

petunia’s poor cousin.  The rich

dress you up while the poor

eat you plain.  You are the rock

earth in its love for us makes edible.


You’re the gag the tailpipe spits out.

How often have we walked over you

not knowing, or passed you in the market,

our eyes on the crowing artichoke,

the siren tomatoes, dill’s feathery boas?


But come a rainy November evening,

with winter in the air, what I want

is your plain brown heart, earth apple,

steaming the windows.  Nothing else

tells me I am fed, not famished,


nothing else gives me my history

of hard walks, sea crossing and hunger.

I like to add a little horseradish

into the mash in honor of all

difficult journeys, in honor of those


who perished by sea, by gun,

of hunger, in ovens—so many

making the dirt rich for you,

little suitcase, packed

and kept ready at the door.


Megan Grumbling is a poet who lives in Portland. Deep Water: Maine Poems is produced in collaboration with the Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance. “Spud” copyright © 2019 by Betsy Sholl. It appears by permission of the author.

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