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Soap and Glass and Earthworms

When you were at work,
I picked up your journal —
a slim book bound
in soft brown leather —
I snuck it out
from the bedside table,
I held it in my hands,
I felt it over and over,
and finally peered inside.

I want you to know
it was not to look for
anything written about me.

I just wanted to learn you
in a way I hadn’t yet,
in ways I couldn’t
suss out on my own,
and this is what I learned:

You wrote about
your mother’s hands,
about her white hands
wrinkled, her nails chipped
and unpainted, pitted
with soap and work.

They smelled like laundry,
the kind that is only clean
because you’ve knotted
and kneaded and soaked
and swished and wrung
until your elbows ache,
until your fingers ache.

You wrote about
the green glass earrings
your Aunt Callie wore
until the day
her last hard husband
was put beneath the earth,

handmade teardrops
hung on wire —
even cracked,
they caught the light

and you wrote about
the river full of stones
she threw those earrings into,
to grind them down to dust,
to grind them down,
she told you.

You wrote about
your sister’s girl,
this straw-haired kid
who digs for earthworms
with her fingers
in the silty muck
beside Moldhauer Creek,

about their fat
wriggling bodies
in her little white hands,
the way she pinches them
and laughs.

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