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Saturday, December 8, 2012

The Digging by Rennie McQuilkin

It being the season of eating, I thought I'd share a few poems over the course of the next week from The Hungry Ear: Poems of Food & Drink, edited by poet Kevin Young and just out from Bloomsbury Books. It's a gorgeously designed book, especially in hardcover, which I rarely splurge on but couldn't resist what with titles like ""Beer for Breakfast" (Frank O'Hara), "Song to Bacon," (Roy Blount, Jr.), and "1-800-Hot-Ribs" (Catherine Bowman). Not surprisingly, the book has already been featured on NPR and is included in The New York Times' holiday gift guide. Having placed the book in the bathroom on many a sluggish November morning, I was delighted to learn I was not the only one!

So in the spirit of giving, today I share with you Rennie McQuilkin's "The Digging":

The Digging 

It's that time of year,
the hedgerows hung with bittersweet.
Potato time.

How early the freeze, I'd say
if we were speaking. We're not.
We turn our spading forks against

the earth. It's stiff,
the Reds and Idahos hard as stone,
a total loss.

Once it was us against the beetles,
blight, whatever was not potato.
How they flowered, rows and rows,

in white. Now look.
We give it one last try, and there
far down in softer soil,

a seam of them still perfect.
One after another
we hold them up to the dying day,

kneel down to sift for more.
In the dark of the earth, I come upon
your hand, you mine.

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