Pieces by Donna Scarlett

My earliest memory of you

May 1, 1976


We plant potatoes in the back garden

Any larger than an egg, you proclaim—

those are the ones to go.

I cringe as you carve them into neat squarish patterns

and cry as you amputate their unified whole.

Each potato piece should have at least two eyes.

To see underground? I sniffle inquisitively.

Smiling wistfully, you say,

To grow whole.


My next memory of you

September 25, 1976


The week before my fourth birthday

Mom takes my older sister and brother to see Bambi,

the only just us afternoon of my childhood.

They’re ready, you say,

now we dig.

Kneading the cool black earth, my fingers explore

beneath the surface, abruptly colliding with an unyielding potato.

We uproot them from the safeguard

of their earthen blanket,

as I breathe a tiny juxtaposition the size of my toddler finger.

September sun caressing my face,

potato chilling my diminutive hand,

dirt encrusted underneath my fingernails,

I laugh as we unearth an oblong potato—

an imperfect magical whole.


My final memory of you

March 4, 2012


We careen out into the Florida evening.

Somber moonlight illuminates your red pontoon boat,

the earthy grit on our shoes.

With grieving hands, I gently release you into the water.

Earlier, you cut out a piece of me

in a neat squarish pattern.

In that carving out of separation,

your voice reverberates across our empty silence.

Use your eyes, you say.

In time, covered with enough dirt—

they will grow you whole again.


Then you nestle into the water that is now your earth.



Donna Scarlett is a San Francisco-based writer, consultant, and teacher educator who recently returned to California after five years in the Netherlands. Her work has appeared most recently in English Teaching Professional. She is an adjunct professor at the University of San Francisco and a CCSF student of Italian.

One thought on “Pieces by Donna Scarlett

  1. Just beautiful. We loved planting potatoes together. Do you have the painting I did of him in our potato

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