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.