When Someone Dies, Make Potato Salad by Laura Tate

When Someone Dies, Make Potato Salad

for my Aunt Isolde

Folks coming in for a funeral
need to eat, she’d say,
as small mountains of potato peels
grew, claiming territory across blue Formica.
She insisted on adding sliced hard boiled eggs,
and there was always discussion of onions,
how they make everything taste better.
I stayed on the outskirts, sometimes recruited
to chop the celery or to taste, once folded together
with two wooden spoons,
the final stage of what was never
just potato salad.
It was putting hands and minds to work,
a distraction from the grieving. It was
feeding the living while burying the dead.
Her second husband was a one-legged man
who loved sailboats and cats.
When he died she found another one-legged man
who did all the driving,
brought her glasses of brandy
in the middle of the night.
When those days arrived I hardly recognized her
and she hardly recognized me.
She would have liked her send off:
plates full, no hungry bellies,
children laughing.


Laura Tate’s poetry has recently appeared or is forthcoming in Halfway Down the Stairs, Anti-Heroin Chic, Allegro Magazine, The Stray Branch, Sky Island Journal, and Arboreal Magazine. Her poem, “Requiem for a Young Boy,” was nominated for a Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net Anthology. She was an elementary school reading specialist in rural central New York, working with many children in poverty. Now she’s a retired grandmother living in the northern Virginia/D.C. area with her writer husband and a small orange cat.

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