Ode to
The Potato
"They eat a lot of French fries here," my mother
     announces after a week in Paris, and she's right,
not only about les pommes-frites but the celestial tuber
     in all its forms: rotie, purée, not to mention
au gratin or boiled and oiled in la salade niçoise.
      Batata edulis discovered by gold-mad conquistadors
in the West Indies, and only a 100 years later
       in The Merry Wives of Windsor Falstaff cries,
"Let the skie raine Potatoes," for what would we be
        without you --- lost in a sea of fried turnips,
mashed beets, roasted parsnips? Mi corazón, mon coeur,
     my core is not the heart but the stomach, tuber
of the body, its hollow stem the throat and esophagus,
      leafing out to the nose and eyes and mouth. Hail
the conquering spud, all its names marvelous: Solanum
     tuberosum, Igname,
Caribe, Russian Banana, Yukon Gold.
When you turned black, Ireland mourned. O Mr. Potato Head,
      how many deals can a man make before he stops being
small potatoes? How many men can a woman drop
      like a hot potato? Eat it cooked or raw like an apple
with salt of the earth, apple of the earth, pomme de terre.
     Tuber, tuber burning bright in a kingdom without light,
deep within the earth where the Incan potato gods rule,
     forging their golden orbs for the world's ravening gorge.

--- From Babel
© 2004 Barbara Hamby
(University of Pittsburgh Press)
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