The Peruvian Purple Potato Teachings

by Lisa Martinovic

You don’t find Peruvian purple potatoes at Safeway
much less organic ones
which is only one reason I won’t shop there
And I wasn’t even looking for anything as exotic
as Peruvian purple potatoes
wandering the aisles of my neighborhood health food store
but when I saw them
for the first time
I was no match for their alien incongruous beauty
so I brought home a lapful
set them on top of the fridge
and waited for the perfect moment
to make a meal of these exotic tubers
weeks passed, dust gathered
the moment never materialized
and my potatoes began to sprout thick green eyes
Wistful now, with a dollop of regret
I brought their gnarled selves on to the back porch
tossed them into the yard
an offering to the mulch gods
never gave them another thought

Some weeks later
doing my morning tai chi in the yard
I noticed a plant growing where
none had been before
In between waving clouds and snake creeps down
closer inspection revealed a sturdy stalk
topped with pretty green leaves
rising from the desiccated remains
of one of my Peruvian purple potatoes
As if by magic
with no help from me
life had volunteered herself
right here in my garden
I began to water my little potato plant
who responded with gentle glory
blossoming tender purple flower bells with delicate gold interiors
and birthing hard green marble sized berries
every trip to the garden revealed some new and exquisite cause for awe

I wondered how I would know when to harvest my potato plant
asked my father
who gardens now that he has retired
he said the potatoes will be ready once the blossom dies
I waited for all the blossoms to fold
and then I waited a little longer just to make sure
I found a rusty old shovel in the far corner of the yard
heavy and too big for my hands
I dug all around the plant
dug deep
I figured this would be an arduous task
I do not know why, in life, I assume
every endeavor will require great effort and still
by afternoon’s end
all my digging had not yielded a single spud
I struggled to ignore any metaphor that insinuated itself to me
I put the shovel away, went back into the house
and tried to forget about the whole adventure

In time, the flowers dropped into the earth
the berries withered
the stalk dried up, turned hard and brown
the rains came
and I went back to contemplating my relationship with God
whom I did not trust

It rarely occurs to me to let things come of their own accord
to let life unfold in its time
however sweet or capricious
life has always been a hard nut into which I must
insert the knife of my will
if I wish to eat

One day, a visitation of grace
my mind falls open as if struck
cracked wide like a tomb sealed for millennia by Pharaohs
ancient dust motes freed
sun now streaming in
alive with the inhalation of faith
I walk dazed into my yard
begin weeding and sorting
grass, dandelions, California poppies
the late summer sunshine warm
my knees pressed into the dirt
hands working the soil as if they knew what to do
fingernails blackening me
thinking, at last, of nothing
feeling only the exaltation of relief and—
there it is
an absolutely perfect Peruvian purple potato peeking
from the earth as if from a nest
a message from the gods
all things in good time I am
pushing my hands into the soil
finding two, four…eleven purple potatoes
yielding to discovery
waiting patiently for harvest
or else to seed again

At the kitchen sink, I scrub each potato
till it gleams like young aubergine and
in the cleaving
each slice appears a polished cross-section of uncut amethyst

My gems in a bowl
now buttered and salted and
I am fed
All I had to do was get down on my hands and knees
in the dirt
and open my eyes