CONJUNCTIONS: A Web Exclusive
The Potato Messiah: A Love Song
Sandra Newman


that certain peoples in those isles had heads filled with raw potato instead of brains, and this did not prevent them going on to achieve competitive salaries. It was not always possible, without an x-ray, to distinguish the potato-headed from the brained. Studies intended to establish differences in aptitude between the two groups were inconclusive, though there seems to be some indication that potatoes found tasks impossible which brains completed easily within the time limit. However, as one potato-headed cleric pointed out, he could not tell whether he could read or write, never having tried. These cultural differences may continue to frustrate psychologists until a more appropriate methodology can be contrived. It is related, however, that one potato-headed lad, feeling an ambition incommensurate with his worth, left his village to seek his fortune. Bravely, he set forth on the ways of men. Soon in the road he spotted a hate beetle, who called on him to stop in the King’s name. In tame respect for his sovereign (whose daughter’s hand he was, furthermore, resolved to win) Potatohead halted, doffing his cap.
      “What is your will, good insect?” the lad asked, bowing to the circling dust of the royal highway. At that moment, the Princess’s starry concept flared within him.

There are a series of further adventures, at the conclusion of which Potatohead, having successfully completed a series of trials, in which he is aided by friends met on the road, weds the Princess Forlorna. The tale exists in various forms throughout the province, and probably originates in a legend invented by an historical usurper seeking to legitimate his reign.








Interpolation 1: Underlying poem: Lorna

Let it be known and let it be repeated, let it be after all, with a deep breath;
For he has actually entered, and set his bags down.

Let the carpet be cleared away to expose the meadows underneath,
For his black leather jacket is cold and beaded with cold rain.

Let all these walls forget me,
For I have come running out and I have shouted and laughed like conquering Alexander.

Let dread fall, oh, let fear elapse and misgiving cease,
For he is ten minutes early.

Now let all within my hearing consider his remarkable grace,
For he has knocked it all over just to reach the next kindness.

Let the sky too come close to give his voice echo,
For his is the purest apology in the strewn cities.

Let these children be raised to recall him, and sob, and speak his name in their wondering solitudes,
For his loneliness has given fruit to the generous greeting.

Let all gasp again,
For he has reinvented awe.

Let the men and women take note, oh, you blundering! oh, bleak clams! oh, sorrowful, sightless moss!
For he creates a fine attention, in which eyes rediscover the lost eighth colour.

Let me be dressed in new leaves and tawny Polynesian sand to bring him apples,
For his big hands denote the honesty of many.

Let the numbers increase, and let each grow, and let them be thrown into bold relief and sharp focus,
For he has seen each one for the first time.

Let them be counted and brought to this paved yard,
For he is to learn their names and return to each its dreamed pebble.

Let the doors be given the power of speech,
For he comes into the room with an important cup in each hand.

Let the dirt be called Anastasia and the trash mon Duc de Vailleurs,
For he can fuck that way, that all the beds are turned galleon.

Let the multitudes of Chinese clap mightily, and let winds bear the choice petals to his balconies,
let the grass stretch and shiver until the sun is thrown off in puffs and let my voice be heard crying love in the final instance,

For he has made welcome, he has made welcome, he has made real welcome.








FRAGMENT III. [The Potato Messiah continued]

for what cause do you hinder me?” Potatohead queried.
“I and my people are hungry,” said the beetle.
“Alas! I have no provisions. I am from a poor den: my people are the Poor.”
“Yet there is a smell of food about you,” remarked the crafty bug.
“That is my head,” the hapless boy admitted.
He cocked an ear, and the insect climbed in, feasting and feasting on his head’s contents. Indeed, as he crouched with his ear near to the earth, a host of hate beetles scampered from near and far, blackening the blue fields with their march. All mounted at Potatohead’s ear and feasted within.
      At last, all sated, the tribe of the hate beetles filed out, hopping down from Potatohead’s ear like dainty goats.
      The beetle chief saluted him as the many bugs departed. “Hail to you, Potato-headed Boy! And if my folk and I can ever be of service, do not hesitate to cry upon the hate beetles!”








FRAGMENT IV. [ The Potatohead’s Sojourn continued]

long in the rocky path. Finally Potatohead came to the land of intelligent morsels. These morsels had come from a parallel universe in which chunks rather than primates had evolved higher cognitive ability. Ever since, they had been vassals of the Mining Interest. Whenever they wished to rebel, the Mining Interest diverted them with riddles and considerations. For instance:

A) the thinking morsels had arrived in this universe on a scheduled flight on one of the major airlines. It had cost them an average of 435 each in today’s money. How much could they have saved if they had accumulated the average amount of air miles with the MinIn Gold loyalty card?

B) The morsels were invested at a fixed 6% APR with a leading credit union. Had they, ten years ago, been placed with the MinBank Market Tracking Fund, how much more, per chunk, would they be worth today?

C) What made the Mining Interest the most forward-looking influence on the global political scene today, and how could ordinary morsels contribute to the spread of its beneficent influence?

Although the prizes offered for the best replies to its puzzles were cheap and unappealing, the morsels were unusually susceptible to “the spirit of the thing.” So they vied and worried, in the little spare time left over from toil. Each mine had a riddle syndicate that jointly solved riddles. Families of morsels stayed up to help the juniors with school problems such as: “Complete the sentence: Mining Interest rations are my flavorite because …” Winners were pictured on the front page of the dailies, beaming with their plastic trophies.

“Hullo, jolly morsels!” Potatohead hailed the doughty bits. “How do you on this gladsome morn?”

“Badly! Alas! See all the labour, all the graft! Yet there are no goods and little to enjoy!”

“Oh, however,” frowned Potatohead, “Why do you not

(In the ensuing section Potatohead leads the morsels to freedom, himself deafened to the pursuing riddle of the Mining Interest by his failure to understand the question. All cruise over the edge of the world, which is there flat, and into the Second Paradise of Presto Mares, where the adventure abruptly ceases, only resuming with Potatohead’s approach to Forlorna’s palace:)








Interpolation 2: Recapitulation

The Princess came to live in our heads. Then we were palaces.

The hate beetles fled to the Unacknowledged Recess. Presto mares went bewreathed, frolicksome, and lovelorn, on our new lawns. Through you with me, Forlorna bore her celestial leaps, you fell into me princess-drenched.

Then the grass waved all its arms. We cried our best to love.

Oh, Presh, it is fantastic and entire, but what lasts remains behind, lasting yesterday without me. I have outstripped my real shouting life: we have outlived our true bed.



The Princess came to live in our heads. Then we were palaces.

Seven mares on seven beating hearts spun in our mid-air: we could not breathe to feel the presto twirling. We were in such states. I held your hand to make you not alarmed. You made the welcome noise. It was as foretold by the keepers of deliria.

But the ants departed in sad bright lines: you closed my door you turned out my lights. You left me standing in my cold clothes.



The Princess came to live in our heads. Then we were palaces.

The foetal heart became plump and we were living. It batted to remind us as we went about our chores. Some of the chores were then scented: others murmured. Some burgeoned and became great.

But love, your borders grow fjords to confuse my approach. Where I slept in your lake comes prickly sea; I drown in your cruel salt, weeping. You have unraveled your shores to repel my most meant boat, you have raised cliffs grinning with ice.



The Self returned and found the Princess sleeping in its bed. Then was the Self wroth.

It made its Person Roar and represented. We dwindled, cowed: how we became less and crept in its shadow. Its shadow moving like irreversible beetles, its covering made of no. Our mouths went blind to air: our hands closed.

We continued without our flesh. That was a long time ago. Before I lost your address, your keys, the spelling of your name. Before this Earth, Earth II, the disappointing sequel.

But a copy of First Earth is preserved, among records of the tax victories of the Usual Pygmies against the Enormous Blessed, our true love is kept in a library there with an antiseptic bear. The bear stands. Our true love lies at its cold heels.

You and I cannot read it because it makes us weep and claw at our chests until we pull out our ribs like loose nails. No one else can read it with their brains and eyes. They cannot squeeze through its slim ingress with their brains and eyes, and you can never wash off your eyes, comb out your brain, or refill the names of the dead, you cannot read your true love.

Therefore we have sent the Potato-headed Boy in our stead to make his expedition in Braille and retrieve the lost knowledge of our sojourn in that outer head, spelled once in the sun on fattening drowsy grapes, the light which hit the dusty skins and flew back to the universe, excited with its suggestion

signifying PRINCESS








FRAGMENT V. [Potatohead arrives at the Court of the Omnipotent Inane]

The King was dour and insignificant. He bore the traces of descent from the Usual Pygmies of Yore, whose mines still honk in the night with dissatisfaction. Therefore his palace was downward, his throne of a mean tin.

Yet Forlorna’s starry Ding an Sich flew yellow from a far abundant window. So Potato-boy knelt in shame before that star. He knelt unformulating, weak. He bowed his eaten head.

“Oh youth of dim and few hopes!” screeched the mediocre King. “In my land exist many Poor who will not labour at the Designated Task. They linger by the merry bay, excited: their pretty cry affronts our ear. Do you Wholly Devour these Poor.”

Then Potatohead Boy’s two hearts were dried. In his chest they rattled like hapless dice, shaken in a vase from which the flowers have been fatally removed. He took a cold breath and in faintness and ambivalence failed to the dust. Then did a piddling voice cry from below.

“O Good Source to My People,” the Hate Beetle King sang. “Now will we aid you in your plight.”

The tale asserts that the beetle horde did then parasitise the Glad Poor, and wholly devour their Good Part. They joined the Grey Poor in the Designated Task. The geological feature known locally as the Anglian Good Part, a crag which reaches out towards the sea in vain, is said to commemorate the grief of the Eaten Poor.







Interpolation 3: The Dispensation

Because we had not washed our relationship in some time, it became infested with scissors. Then our leaps and joys were abbreviated. Sometimes we must walk with our heads low. Other times we simply apologised. As it went unchallenged, we shrank with impunity. Still the scissors halved and halved.

      I cry the small tears. I cry the parts of my tears, and their hollow ring. I weep clockwork and sob in the sink’s voice.

      You brought the new dispensation home and we assembled it in the garage. Though the dog barked at it, it certainly looked fine. “Wait till morning,” you said, “and we’ll start her up.”
      “What if it’s a mower?” I doubted.
      You were dismissive. “Supposing it is, we have still paid good money.”
      All that night I laboured, hiding valuables. Even the mice came out to stare at my frenzy. I heard them whispering: nests, nests. Their yellow eyes twinkled like rain along the skirting boards.
      First thing in the morning, you started up the dispensation. It roared like beasts upon beasts. How it mowed! All our tall things laid low, the fine down shaved. For hours the device did its levelling and setting-naught. I stood dumb, fearing for my valuables.
      When it was done, it was fully dark. The stars above aimed like so many potential spears. That night, all of them pointed at my heart. I tore my shirt open, but soon they subsided, meaning nothing in the dull faraway sky.

      I cry the small tears. I cry the parts of my tears, and their hollow ring. I weep clockwork and sob in the sink’s voice.

      Now we lived in A and travelled every day to work in B. Sometimes we got jobs as filler, or contaminated. We worked hard, but there was always a new brand of gruel to be tried, and the rent of the hovel was not cheap. Our throats sprang leaks; we could afford only paper shoes. Even our old friends insisted on pre-pay.
      You blamed me and made me sleep on the curtailed side. You called me the names I had most feared and begged to never hear. You said it was a joke when it was poison. You ate my flesh.

I could not follow the instructions for lament. The recipe for grief calls for salt; but where to buy it in the neighbourhood? If I could moan, I would moan the skies down, but I cannot moan. My sorrows are dull knives: my scream falls short.
      How I had loved you, though, no one will ever know.


We find the opening, and we mount. The going is rough, the rocks cut into our mild fingers. But the sky clears, the air no longer busy with flies and vultures. Soon we arrive at the layer of steeples. Luckily we have climbing toes, and scramble up with ease. At the summit we hop to grasp the bottom rung of the mighty raise. You go first, calling to cheer me. “Soon! I see it! Near!” Rapidly our eyesight is swallowed in pervasive gold. Our skin suffused, our blood leaping with just gold. It is my love for you, my I am overcome, my true remembrance. Below, my valuables have come out, they scatter now urgently to sing and seed the earth.
      We turn our eyes upward to the Mares who await, who look intelligently and paw the brushed lawns. The Presto Mares, feet moist like eyes. The twirling Mares of the kept, the white marvellous.
      We brace ourselves, crab-like, to bear the re-making.








[The Trials of Potatohead continued ]

And on the second day was the King fretful at the fool’s triumph. Narrowly he surveyed his concrete dominion, where the lad crouched, beset.

Yet did the mischievous spark Forlorna cry ridiculous! to obstacles. Through the grey like an inherent yellow sword, it parted all with stridingness and East like all his hearts walking in the right direction.

“Oh sorry cheater of our will,” the King screeched. “Our Kingdom is infested with Dark Incomers, whose ways are an alien tambourining. They are barefooted and intentionally reproduce. Do you voraciously consume the Stranger.”

Then did Potatohead repudiate Forlorna’s adoration for the cost. He parted from his hope. The Presto Mare rose from the stinkerous chopping block and galloped up the walls and gone. Potatohead’s flight, as the flunkies pounded him and pasted him with ordure as he crawled, was grainy in his eyes, so he receded and released the concrete of might, put

one foot in ripe soil. He was alone. The dew met him and his flesh cleared. He stood upright, breathing a single colour into his chest.
      Forlorna stood before him bright among the shaking grass.