Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Laguna: The Lesson of Mud and Potatoes

This week, I had trouble writing from the prompt we were given.  It was a great prompt: to write off of Kim Addonizio's poem "What Women Want". But, difficult can be good, because it can make you split something open that you've been stuck in your ways about.  I find when I'm writing a narrative-based project like the one I am currently working on, the Laguna de Santa Rosa, I need to be shaken up.  I need to have someone pull the rug out from beneath me.  Not sure, if I found my legs afterward yet, but here's my draft of a poem for this week.  It's still on the Laguna, but it goes in a bit of a different direction.

The Lesson of Mud and Potatoes

History comes in many forms — some of it, apparently, edible.”
 –Gaye LaBaron

What a citizen wants is to peel back
the skin of history that shields a place
the single story that survives record.
Time offers its own flood—washes out roads
of thought no matter how deep the ruts run.

To ask what it was like to be a passenger
on Bill Tibbet’s bone-jarring stage coach ride
from the docks of the Petaluma River
to the potato mines of Bodega
where nutty-flavored red-skinned potatoes
thrived in the salty, mineral soil
until blight wiped out the crop; until we

forgot to tend the road between then and
now.  When landmarks like Spud Point
loom mysterious instead of marking
the story they once told: a barge too full
of potatoes that sunk at the spot.

How to still imagine each stop the stage
took in 1860 after winter rains
left roads nearly impassable
mud to our knees, wheels stuck in ruts but the
Laguna swollen and fertile, offering
a passage across in the steam engine
ship Georgina or later the Pride of the Laguna.

What questions should a citizen ask to dredge this out?
So we can dig up a few forgotten tubers of those lost potatoes,
so that we can find that tin-rusted hull of a ship,
to carry us back to a place that speaks
in more than one voice, that we continually
rewrite and remember.


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