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Build the Soil

I’ve been thinking of how to fix the earth.
The front yard of this house is only sand,
an acre of desert where nothing grows up.

Rain runs off, elopes with the foundation
of the earth of my birth,
a river that eats
from doorstep to driveway,
and I wonder how long
before it takes this house with it,
how long before it takes me with it,
how long before we are swept into the street.

Today, I read a book about compost,
about eggshells and nitrogen,
about humus, pine straw, rotifers,
how broken things decompose
to bind themselves back together,
how decay has a health in it,
a secret science of lignin and bacteria
to rebirth the earth of my birth.

The book tells me patience
is the earth-tender’s friend —
take the slow years
for redworms and food scraps
to grow the soil before you
grow the seeds of grass and flowers —
but the only patience I have
is reserved for my own molder.
Anyway, rich soil won’t help
without a way to keep it in place.

Landscape is just as important:
gird the property line with stone and log,
tuck the trees into their beds of mulch,
clear storm drain and ditch so maybe
the next downpour won’t drown me out.
Erosion control takes retaining walls
just as much as it takes healing.

This poem was originally published under the pen name Gabriel Gadfly.
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