Outside of Leningrad, digging up potatoes, are scientists.
It is 1941. The Germans closing in. The scientists, men and women,
are from the seed bank, Pavlovsk Station. They are working to save
the six thousand kinds of potatoes, the two hundred varieties of cherry.
It will not be easy. There are rats, and even rats
are not the hungriest. There is bread made of sawdust.
Jam made of wallpaper. For eight hundred seventy-two days
Leningrad folds inward like a fertilized flower. 640,000 dead,
and mostly of starvation. But these are merely numbers.
Here is the heart of science: in the basement of Pavlovsk Station
the man in charge of rice starves to death
while leaning on the sacks of rice.
(This poem was published in the Summer 2017 issue of PRISM international.)