Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Brown (11/26/09)
TITLE: Panning for Gold
By Emily Gibson
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Begins months in advance,
The seed catalogs perused,
Order forms sent,
Rattling envelopes arrive in the mail
With ounces of dormant potential within.
The soil is carefully prepared
Once it warms, and clings together just so when picked up,
Dug and turned over and raked and smoothed,
Measured, traced and rowed with pie crust perfection
Ready for seeds patted lovingly in place.
Potatoes halved, quartered, eyes up to the sky
Nestled gently in the valleys and mounded into hills
The greenhouse seedlings hardened then set out in the big world
To fare on their own or die trying.
The brown garden bed undulates, pregnant, expectantly germinating.
Green shoots arrive shortly before the weeds
Or maybe simultaneously in a race to the finish
To see which wins the battle of the plot.
Every root for itself competing for light,
For space, for moisture, for an uncertain future.
Thinning and weeding becomes ruthless, with healthy plants
Plucked and discarded, becoming compost to the survivors.
Sun, then showers, cloudy days, then sun again,
Forcing blossoms, enticing honeybees, spreading pollen
Deep and wide.
In the heart of summer, there is flourish in the fruiting
Of every plant, an overwhelming plenty for canning and freezing,
Drying, storing and preserving, later opening summer in gratitude
For a cold winter's day meal.
Others are waiting, in the chilling ground, for later harvest.
Preparing for the feast means the carrots must be released
From their fast root hold, withered green tops tossed aside
Beets bulging leave soil for pot, coloring water burgundy
Brussel sprouts line stalks like chubby soldiers in formation
Squash is cut open, spilling its seedy stringy inner guts.
Onion layers peel like paper to reach into the flavorful heart
Kale leaves with ruffly edges, multicolored and stiff
Then digging for potatoes, searching the ground for dying vines
Spading cautious, wary of slicing or spearing spuds asleep
Eyes closed tight for winter.
Once a nest of potatoes is found, then reach in deep
With hands only, panning the dirt for the red, white and gold
Nuggets that materialize like magic out of rivers of brown dust
Running through the fingers, finding large, small and in between
Then placed lovingly in the garden basket
Next to go from soil to sink to pot to plate with
Steaming perfection, a feast of dreams realized
From last winter's catalogs, after some sun, some rain,
A little muscle and plenty of heart to work the dirt that clings
Unforgotten, brown, and stubborn, under every fingernail.
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