rock clumps of potatoes. My first job
is a ritual of plastic gloves, a conveyor belt,
and a sacred mountain of starch at the end
of the hangar-like farm outbuilding.
We are all women. I’m thirteen,
just old enough to work here. The others
are poor, some are missing teeth,
their eyes wrinkle when they laugh.
They challenge me to potato-cleaning
contests to pass the time until lunch.
Our fingers often catch in the machine.
It stops automatically: we look at each other
in accusation. The guilty woman shrugs,
nurses a pinched thumb or forefinger.
We palm stones and dream of rings,
we hope the clock will click to home.
We rub off clumps of dirt, throw out imposters,
cull out the rotten and the bug-ridden.
Our hands slide over each potato: the thin skin
and the rough. I’m the kid with the bright
yellow gloves. I can’t remember any of their faces.