I’M IN THE LANDSCAPE

January 29, 2018

Sally and I walk the dogs on the road

that runs by the potato field in Gill.

Only a week ago there was green

 

as far as the eye could see.

Now it’s dusty, dry, and brown,

strewn here and there with lumps—

 

small potatoes with firm, gritty skins,

palm-sized, like the cell phone

we bend over to peer at the image

 

of The Gleaners by Millet:

bent-over women picking potatoes

from a field, faces hidden, solitary,

 

stolid, not like the cluster

of laughing Quechan women we met

in Chinchero. They were stamping

 

potatoes in bare feet,

faces unafraid of sun

beneath impervious bowler hats.

 

Lays Potato Chips owns the field

we walk in today. Machines

with tines churn up the earth,

 

scoop up potatoes by the ton.

We can’t see the river. It runs

just behind the line of trees.

 

Once it flooded and fertilized the field.

Now it’s not allowed to overreach its banks—

a dam controls it. The absence of machines

 

in Millet’s painting makes it nostalgic,

but I am in the landscape now,

back bent and sore. The sun is hot,                                                                                               

 

it burns my neck.

Bending is rote movement,

not romantic.

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