Salamander 2024 Fiction Contest

SUBMIT: May 1 through June 2, 2024 | READING FEE: $15


Ode to a Potato Masher

Jessica Greenbaum
| poetry


She who wields you

gets a grip on her task

and bears down to change

one thing into another,

like most everything used

in the kitchen except for

the plates, and even they hold

what will be turned to

smudges and scraps. The fork

looks at you and says, I used to

do your job from scratch,

back in the day, and adds

Thank goodness you took over.

You aren’t the kind

that faces down the eggs

or potatoes with a sharp

mesh of empty squares

like graph paper, but you sport

the single wavy line

of a graph’s up and down

findings themselves: the rise

and fall of lilac blooms

over four years, tide heights

Tuesday, optimism and

pessimism as a parent

any given day, heartbeat,

success rates and relapse.

You model the waves

in which we tumble, day

over day, and what we can

expect at the end, the

breaking down. We hold

someone, we let them

go. You are a little time

machine on a pegboard

hook, without tick or tock.

We provide the hands;

someone asks for seconds

and then the meal

is cleared away.

Jessica Greenbaum‘s latest book, The Two Yvonnes, came out from Princeton’s University Press. She is a social worker teaching workshops inside and outside academia, and was a 2015 recipient of a literature award from the National Endowment of the Arts.

To Bill Zavatsky