Tin cans and potato mash

Today I put holes in these tin cans then filled each one with horse manure and soil to act as a nursery for seeds.

The allotments are in a huge field, and my plot is very exposed. Being at a windy part of the site keeps me cautious: I want to make sure that all the seedlings are hardy enough before planting them out in the earth.

At the polytunnel I met a man who was checking on his tomato plants. Some of them seemed to be thriving, but he was concerned about a few that had yellowed. It was a mystery, he said, because they all came from the same seeds and were planted under the same conditions. His skin reminded me of my grandad’s; chestnut brown and deeply lined around the eyes.

My grandparents used to grow tomatoes, lettuce, and scallions at the back of the haybarn. We enjoyed them in Summer salads. They ate potatoes regularly too. In Ireland we call potatoes ‘spuds’, but once they were mashed my granny always referred to them as ‘poppies’.

Photo by Polina Tankilevitch

GRANNY’S MASH

LISTEN TO THE POEM HERE

GRANNY’S MASH

My grandmother glanced at her wrist, though her inner clock knew it was time to fill the silver pot with spuds

(Bhí sí réidh chun na prataí a glanadh*)

She washed and peeled, then pulled the lighter’s trigger.

A lilac flame appeared in one click.

I listened to the purring of gas

the lid drumming as water bubbled and boiled

steamed up-glasses defogged with a wipe on cotton apron

as Grandad arrived for mash made thick and creamy with milk and golden butter:

simple country rituals that tasted like cosy safety.

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*Irish. Pronounced “Vee shee ray-egg khun na praw-tee a glon-ah” this line means “she was ready to clean the potatoes”.

Kathryn Crowley lives and writes in Kerry, Ireland.

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