Barbara L. Thomas

Always Careful Potatoes
Do Not Touch One Another

Have I never seen the terrain
of Mama's soul? Creeks and rivers,
woods and flat-bottomed farmland,
hedgerows walling in and walling out?

Like Ruth, I glean at Mama's heels,
plodding barefooted, the soil alien to me;
she steps carefully, slightly
pigeon-toed, her words

oblique. Untrod, the fallow
swarth between us--she repeats
the particulars of harvest
as if holy writ: saved

sweet potatoes all winter,
layered them in barrels
alternating crisp maple leaves,
careful the dusty jackets

did not touch one another.
Boiled down syrup and brown sugar,
our orchard, fresh stock from the nursery.
Butchered chickens and pigs,

rendered lard, soap from the ashes
and the leavings. Spread tatted
Sunday muslins in the meadow to bleach,
hitched the team and buggy

for all-day church,
never forgot the fruits
of baptism: never used a cuss
word, never tasted liquor.

Copyright 1992, Barbara L. Thomas

Barbara L. Thomas is a member of the North West Native American Writer
Circle and a performer with The Avalanche Poets; her most recently published
or forthcoming work is with No Exit, Mocking Bird, Damaged Wine, and
Between-the-Lines. "Always Careful Potatoes Do Not Touch One Another" was
first published in Dickinson Review.