I dropped cut pieces, one by one, into soil
prepared and waiting to receive the budding spuds.
Thinking as I made my way down the furrow
of the Burren in Ireland, a vast rocky stretch of hills,
inhospitable surely to any kind of sustenance
to keep body and soul together and yet
in years past one of the places the people could go,
drop their seed potatoes into crevices in granite,
stuff the cracks with seaweed and in time
harvest enough to keep them alive.
Because you see the Irish then were not allowed to plant,
to own land or beasts or any manner of growing food,
so the storyteller told me.
I think of them, scraping up seaweed, climbing the hills
and in secret planting their potatoes, praying
that some miracle would allow the crop to grow, to thrive,
And it did, or so the story goes, and the people and their potatoes endured.
I cannot testify to the truth of the tale,
only to its impact on me as I plant in deep rich soil,
knowing that should this seed not grow,
should the dreaded blight strike here
I will not starve,
I will not die or be driven from my home by hunger
to travel across a wide sea, to make a new life
in a strange land.
The curse of the potato became death for millions,
salvation for others who came here, to this place
where I now live and plant, and here they rooted,
here they brought their music and their laughter,
their sadness and their potato.
I drop the Irish Cobblers one by one,
one by one, trusting the sturdy heritage
and seeing the stony Burren,
the masses on the ships,
as the brown soil covers all.