Here we have Idaho, monsieur Follain, a mountainous American province known— famous, as a matter of fact—for its potatoes: les pommes de terre célèbre! Less so, its poets.
You likely never heard of it, O brother in poems and more, meaning, of course, les pommes de terre, which, yes, my home state is famous for. But alas, your Célébration de la pomme de terre,
out of print in France, has never appeared en anglais, and I have spent most of a frustrating day trying to procure it en français, and have failed. The problem seems to be having it mailed
trans-oceanically. The seller will send it gladly to any nation in Europe, but not to l’États Unis. Pardon my French, my pomme de terre patois: there’s tater and spud, but nothing with such sang-froid
as apple of the earth, earth apple, a little figure, a tiny poem tinier even than the tiniest of yours, the tart apples of your verses, your other, better love than potatoes, peut-être? And yet, I must have,
I confess, the potato book, and have therefore pressed a fluent francophone colleague into service, who has had it sent to a friend in Belgium, from thence so on to me, here in America, here in Idaho.
Why? Because, like you, I love—no, j’adore les pommes de terre almost as much as I adore your poems: the child with the wild red hair, the thousand year rain, the peace that decays forever.
Here, monsieur Follain, we have the potato in such quantity that the singular state of Idaho grows all the frites françaises McDonald’s ever sells, our gift to the chef de cuisine of that culinary hell.
Although, I confess, I love French fries too, and perhaps, with your book, I’ll find that so did you, who may at last make clear to me what a potato is worth— famous potatoes, mere potatoes, poems of the earth.
The yellow pines thrash their manes and rear. You can almost hear beneath their stationary hooves the billion root-hairs clench and click, the nicker and neigh, the nowhere wind goes by on the way to nowhere else, bringing joy and hysteria to the trees. In the interludes between gusts they shuffle and sway then stand almost immobile in the downpour of shed needles—at last only a single branch bobbing like a twitched flank, then stillness, the sound of what was fading in the east, the sound of what’s coming coming nearer from the west. They grow restive. They wait until it comes and gallop in their stillness again.
Burgdorf Hot Springs, Perseids, August, 1982
There was no moon that night, and the moose might have thought that we, naked and heeled together on our innertubes, were a pair of gigantic lily pads.
Then he came through the left-open gate and clomped along the wooden walkway toward us. His antlers shed shadows halfway across the pool.
When he leaped into the five-foot middle depths, he cast a wave that nearly capsized us but paid us no mind at all, thrashing out
and scampering in the cold toward our towels. Instead, he plunged his head again and again into the hot water and flung from his horns
enormous starlit hafts of droplets shimmering, while we shivered in our towels but could not not watch him there, now at the farthest, deepest end,
the water barely reaching his withers. He blew three blasts of breath from his flues and at last clambered out at the meadow end, stepping over a yard-high fence
as though it were a city curb. He stood in the starlight then, steam rising from him like a cape of diaphanous tulle, before he walked
into the meadow itself, among the grazing elk we’d been listening to for an hour, and we dropped our towels and made our way
back to the innertubes and stayed several hours more, making love once, counting seventy-three meteors, nine bull elk bugles, six cow barks, one moose.