I peeled the potatoes today. I held each in my hand, rough as stone but all at once as tender as an ungloved hand. Cold. Stiff. But fleshily tender. Humble, wrinkled, worked by the earth, the earth worked by its own fleshy roots.
I peeled the potatoes today. The skins came off in rough flats, exposing a plain gleaming interior. Such a lowly vegetable. No antioxidants, Omega-3 fatty acids. No abundance of fiber. Just a simple-sugared root to fill the stomach.
When a boy was left unresponsive in the ditch just East of the Adams’ garden, south along Cty Hwy — on the day before last, they called him a vegetable. I’ve heard that and often wondered, “Well… what kind of vegetable might that be?” As a kid, I’d imagine green florets budding out from under the soft and torn fingernails, wisps of broad-leafed lettuce unfolding amongst the lusterless hairs matting his scalp. A once-animated boy returning to the greens and oranges of leaves and stalks. Rustling and quiet in the shadows. Only the wind speaking as his new-found voice.
But maybe “vegetable” is the wrong term – maybe he lies quietly, tending earthward like a starchy root.
I gathered the peelings from the sink, the pot already starting to simmer with its bounty of little rough-ivory balls. My hands overflowed with the peelings as I dropped them in the garbage, knowing that after I took the bag to the can and the can had been dumped into the truck and the truck unloaded at the landfill, those knobby slivers of loamy flesh will start to push new fingers and toes out into the quiet darkness. An underground nursery of young potatoes born from the discarded flesh of this feast. And I wonder: what ancient flesh bore these very potatoes that simmer now in my own pot? And when I’m buried, my stomach still half-full of the boiled potatoes of my last meal, what new earth will be parted by the same old flesh seeking new light from old knowledge?
from the collection of: p. botte