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ISSUE:  Autumn 2002

I’m digging a drainage ditch beside my house.
Tomorrow I will feel the length of it in my shoulders and back.
I will enjoy thinking “heft” and “mattock,”
those flinty Ts a pleasure
in the silent language of thinking
when the ditch is complete.
Roots snag the blade, and to free the mattock
I work the handle like a lever,
like the start/stop stick on old-fashioned carousels.
And now the mothers and fathers have stepped off
the ride’s platform and the children are going around
on their gaudy animals with the open red mouths.
Some are crying, some are not.
I smell fresh-turned dirt.
Sparks fly from struck quartz.
The word is chert.
I notice shards, like shrapnel, have cut
my bare chest and there are flecks of blood.
This red wound in the dirt has leapt up.


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