Midge Goldberg


Funeral Potatoes

A Mormon dish called funeral potatoes,
ubiquitous and creamy, full of cheese,
appears at every family funeral—
no Mormon dies without a side of these.

They fill a spot on all the mourners’ plates
next to the slaws and casseroles and meat,
and as the dead approach the Pearly Gates,
the living do their part—they sit and eat.

My question on this lumpy sustenance:
How did it start, as food or something more—
a humble symbol, earthly, blind, and dense,
a Mormon’s not-so-gourmet metaphor?

Or maybe, it’s that, any time of year,
potatoes are just what there was at hand,
rattling around a farmhouse bin somewhere
or scrabbled from the dusty promised land.

And just by dint of sheer dull repetition—
a funeral a month for years on end—
potatoes gained this deathly reputation;
what started as a meal became a trend.

Regardless, here they are, loaded with meaning:
“Someone you love just died.” To make it through,
maybe a potato’s what you need
to serve as comfort when no words will do.

Ice Tray

Out on the counter, tray
of empty spaces,

Ice angels,
sandbox crenellation mold,

Egg carton with a dozen
hollow places,

Each four-walled plastic womb
ready to hold

A single cell of water—
filled, they are

Promises only,
precursors that require

A balancing act, martinis
on a bar,

Until, shape-shifter,
O transmogrifier!

Nursery of ice,
of building blocks,

Square worlds created
out of hydrogen bonds,

A flagstone patio
of slippery rocks,

Small skating rinks
on tiny frozen ponds,

Glass houses each
entirely alone,

Tumbling together
into the unknown.

Midge Goldberg has received the Howard Nemerov Sonnet Award, and the Richard Wilbur Poetry Award for her book Snowman’s Code. Her poems have appeared in Measure, Light, Appalachia, and Cobalt Review of Baseball, and on Garrison Keillor’s A Writer’s Almanac. Her other books are the poetry collection Flume Ride and the children’s book My Best Ever Grandpa. She is a longtime member of the Powow River Poets and has an M.F.A. from the University of New Hampshire. She lives in Chester, New Hampshire, with her family, two cats, and an ever-changing number of chickens.