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,