Poem | Potato Setting

For Vigdis Storsletten
(Unsplash/Jonathan Kemper)

A string bag of them gives off
the wet smell of earth before anything.
The year is infant, and trees stand
with their naked wood.
Nothing lies down beside nothing.
Even ice is on and off, gone, still here,
thawing, shivering,
I’ll show you—come see. 
The road is one long puddle.

The sun floats up, and stops.
The magpie waits to be two. The sparrow hides

beside the mailbox on its iron post, hedge
nailed together by thorns.
          The house
is one black window. The school is

a blue slate roof. The playground is empty,
and on the field
even the sheep are vanished as she

says nothing, no word, no word,
no word enough and cuts
the world into soil.

Published in the February 2021 issue: 
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Michael Cadnum has published nearly forty books, including the National Book Award Finalist novel The Book of the Lion. His most recent book of poetry, Kingdom, includes many poems that first appeared in Commonweal. He is working on a new book of poems, The Promised Rain. He lives in Albany, California.

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