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potatobb

“I was born lost and take no pleasure in being found.”

John Steinbeck, Travels with Charley

 

Assignments, Orders,
New places and bases
Every two or three years.

Our birth certificates read like travelogues:
Washington, Alaska, California, Idaho
and Maine.
We were from everywhere,
For a little while.

Place.

Loring Air Force Base.
Nineteen eighty one.
Fall Break.
Potato Harvest.
Aroostook County.

Rickety re-purposed buses
Arrive in five am fog,
Loading groggy kids in flannel shirts,
Blue jeans, stiff leather boots,
Mismatched hats and gloves,
Too large for our hands.

Tradition.

Squat farms in provincial towns:
Caribou, Limestone, New Sweden,
The landscape of Northern Maine,
Ripe with French Canadians,
Large Catholic families,
Working hard to keep their homes.

This is what I remember:
Scrambled eggs in bacon grease.

Legend:

A man
Picked over two hundred barrels,
In one day.

Wicker baskets
Placed between our legs,
We were faceless kids
Picking and tossing
Newly flushed-out spuds,
Some tight and ripe,
Others half gone with rot.

Instructions:

Dump them into barrels,
Tag them with your number,
Wait for the tractor
To plough another row.

Twelve: my number.
Thirty: the number of barrels I filled.
Fifty cents: the pay per barrel.

Legend:

A kid, a picker, fell asleep in a dirt row.
He was run over by a tractor.
He died.

Maybe that wasn’t legend.

Memory.

Without lies,
There’s no poetry.
Without lies,
There’s no hope.

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