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for Michelle


Today I feel too clean to play,
but oh there was that day
when you and I
walked past the mud puddle,
all slick and ooze, a miresome mess,
and we reached our fingers into the sludge
and smeared the muck
onto each other’s faces—
thick mud, gray mud, slippery
and unctuous mud,
wide swaths of heavy mud
that slashed our cheeks,
bedecked our foreheads, mocked
our love of spotlessness.
Not war paint, but joy paint,
cool liquid earth on our skin.
Besmudged and besmirched,
we baptized each other
in the dirtiest of water,
a murky blessing,
our laughter blossoming
between us in the air,
a many-petalled prayer,
a jubilant lotus
startlingly (how?) so pure.

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Eventually

 

with thanks to JT

 

 

Start in the dirt,

said the photographer,

then elevate from there.

And though I was thinking

of poems, and though

he was speaking of images,

I immediately leapt to healing.

 

Just today I heard of a girl

who, on Christmas morning,

learned her stomach ache was cancer.

I called her mother

to console her, though

I was the one near tears.

 

Start in the dirt.

Ammons, my hero, once

looked to the dirt

in search of something

lowly, but all he could find

was magnificence. Within

a stanza, he launched

from ticks to galaxies.

 

Sometimes in the dirt

all I see is dirt.

 

I held back the tears until

after we hung up the phone,

then wept. I wanted to find

some shred of magnificence

in her story, but it is, perhaps,

too soon. No magnificence. I suppose

that’s the invitation to stay in the dirt,

stay there until I know, really know,

there is nothing lowly. Not

the lichen. Not the slug. Not the ant.

Not mutating cells.

 

Hafiz, my hero, once wrote

that everything, everything

is holy. Sometimes I want

to argue with him.

 

Start in the dirt. Yes.

Perhaps I will be here a while.

I have some practicing to do.

It may be some time

before I elevate.

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