“The Man Peeling Sweet Potatoes on Easter Morning” by Bruce Niedt

Bruce Niedt


after Galway Kinnell

The man peeling sweet potatoes on Easter morning
looks frustrated, as though this is a task best passed
to others who really know what they are doing.
His wife is away on other errands and has deemed
him the stripper of skins, with nothing but a dull
vegetable peeler. Perhaps if he should microwave
them for five minutes, the dirt-brown husks
would pull away cleanly, even by tool-less hand.
The ends are hot and soft and peel more easily
but they burn his fingers, while the middle
is still too hard and resists a metal blade.
He is making a mess of this chore, and wonders
why his wife would entrust it to him, when he
could be watching baseball or writing poetry.
Perhaps today of all days he should have faith
that he will accomplish this goal of five pounds
of naked tubers, their bright orange souls
unprotected from the cruelties of the April air.
Sometimes it is easy to peel away defenses,
he thinks, and sometimes a toughness prevails.
Later, his wife will bake them in a casserole,
with cinnamon, brown sugar and marshmallow,
for a dinner that has taken three days to prepare,
and their aroma will rise from a hot square tomb
into the very reaches of heaven.

from Rattle #55, Spring 2017
Tribute to Civil Servants


Bruce Niedt: “I recently retired after 39 years as an employee of the Social Security Administration. (Yes, I served under the commissioner known as poet A.M. Juster.) My job involved much number-crunching, but even more important to me was my everyday face-to-face connection with the public and my ability to help them to get the benefits to which they were entitled. Their gratitude was what made it all worthwhile. Meeting people with a diversity of backgrounds and stories helped enrich the humanity of my writing, especially in my narrative and/or persona poetry.” (website)

Rattle Logo