Poetry Map of Scotland, poem no. 234: Strathcanaird

Planting Potatoes during Chernobyl

The seed went in two days
before the clouds of Chernobyl
Shiva-danced over the Strath.
We joked about tubers
glowing in the dark.
It rained for six weeks.

The leaves grew to lovely sheen.
Tiny flowers lured bees and butterflies.
Roots swelled Edzell Blues, skins of livid heather.
Kerr’s Pinks, soft carnation hue, marble-fleshed.

All perfect, as new potatoes.
Leave them for maincrop?
Eat and run? Dig before
the roots turn to slush, cells run riot?

Let them grow.
Death and potatoes
go a long way back in my family.
Our old Irish men in North America
would not risk potatoes again.
They planted maize
because the sun could cure what the soil could not.

In that newer world, death was above ground,
in the clear living light.


Tom Bryan

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