Martha Rhodes

Potato | The Surface
May 19, 2016 Rhodes Martha



I do not want to finish my potato,

but feel guilty not to finish my potato.


Many died for lack of potatoes,

but I don’t want it, that potato


mushed on my plate, unsalted and dry.

Oh I wish it was an orange potato,


sweet, pretty, brightly hopeful—

but this one’s white, or really yellow.


I’ve asked Mother, why, always potatoes—

can’t we sometimes have rice or turnips?


You know how your father loves his potatoes.

(But he’s gone, Mother, gone. He’s been gone for months.)


He’ll be back. And he’ll smell the potatoes

as he comes through that door, so happy to return



to a plate of potatoes—just eat your potato

Be thankful you’re not starving.


I’m thankful, I am, that I’m not starving, but

I do not want this goddamn potato.


Father’s chair’s empty as it will be tomorrow.





The Surface


A lake in February—

flat, grey, smooth

and the skate blade

drives itself across the surface

though the sun beats warmer

each month passing so that even

in July, August, September the surface

glistens hard with  figure 8’s, hopscotch grids,


criss-crosses. When people look at me

they hold their breaths, suck in.

What, what, so what? I yell.

You think your life’s any better than mine?

Yes, they all answer. So I’ve stopped going out.

And he keeps up the skating all year long.

MARTHA RHODES is the author of four collections of poetry: At the Gate  (1995), Perfect Disappearance (2000, Green Rose Prize), Mother Quiet (2004) and The Beds (2012). Her poems have been published widely in such journals as Agni, Columbia, Fence, New England Review, Pleiades, Ploughshares, Prairie Schooner, TriQuarterly, and the Virginia Quarterly Review. She has also been anthologized widely, her work appearing in Agni 30 Years, Askold Melnyczuk editor, Appetite: Food as Metaphor, Phyllis Stowell and Jeanne Foster, eds. BOA Editions, Ltd.Extraordinary Tide: New Poetry by American Women, Susan Aizenberg and Erin Belieu, eds., Columbia University Press, 2001, New York. The New American Poets: A Bread Loaf Anthology, Michael Collier, ed,. University Press of New England, 2000, Hanover, NH. Last Call: Poems on Alcoholism, Addiction, and Deliverance, Sarah Gorham and Jeffrey Skinner, eds., Sarabande Books, 1997, Louisville. The KGB Bar Book of Poetry, David Lehman and Star Black, eds. Harper Collins, 2000, New York, among others.