Women gather in autumn to brush
root vegetables clean. They lean towards soil, reach
livelihood in ritual squat. Slow season weighed down—
oppressive sweat. Methodical rolling potatoes,
weighted, weighed, into the folds of their skirts. Dirt
sticks to hands, fine granules of dried cow shit staining
perfect, white linens as gravity calls. Cawing
pungent at midday without rest. They hum together.
Perspiration under kneeling bodies creeps
between crooks of knees, makes a home. Roots ready for eating.
Shipped south to Paris—hibernation stock—peasants’ brows
in the field forgotten. Aprons tuft out, shredded with effort, cheeks
bloody at pink breaths waiting for the sluggish crew,
tired with long hours
loiter at other paddocks of the same crop. Field rust scattered
over faces makes mess, shows them together, scars of labour.
Women chatter, absently picking wicker, fingers callused
from years of kneading groundbugs out of good cabbage. Pray,
pray potatoes from this harvest rot slower
than the last.