A Natural History: Ross Gay


A Natural History of My Sweet Potato

Text and Photo by Ross Gay

fig. 1 Sweet Potato

fig. 1 Sweet Potato



Think of the twining, lascivious vines

as guides undulating from the mother stem.

Use a light touch with the pitchfork

so as not to pierce the ambulant

and stray.  When you’ve found and heaved

the whole flock, the gnarled, sappy thatch

of kin, brush from them the dirt

from which they grew.  Brush it

from the nodes and nooks, from the scar

and the moonfaced split.  Brush from them

the small dead, the innumerable dead,

microbial vertebrae and earthworm shit;

brush from them the trillion teeth and tongues

whispering their rot into soil, and scrub

now, with warm water and a dash

of soap, use a toothbrush for the crannies

if need be—scour, if the need be—

until is gone the least remains

of the earth from which they grew,

and instead we praise

the sheen and luster of the clean

and ruined thing.


Ross Gay grows sweet potatoes and had a pet groundhog named Greg.



“A Natural History of My Sweet Potato” is part of the Natural Histories Project. Click here to learn more >>

Ross Gay’s first book, Against Which, was published by CavanKerry Press in 2006. You can find out more about Ross Gay and his work at the From the Fishouse website.


One comment

  1. […] Ross Gay wrote “A Natural History of My Sweet Potato” […]

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