Saturday, March 14, 2009

Ode to the Potato

Ode to the Potato by Barbara Hamby"

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.

"Ode to the Potato" by Barbara Hamby, from Babel. © University of Pittsburgh Press, 2004. Reprinted with permission.

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