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Ode to My Dirt

I jump with my muck boots to the shovel’s step
With this blade I hit rock
With that I sink delightfully down
Lever out that sound Rhode Island grade A agricultural earth
Into my wheelbarrow.
With untold hours
My middle aged wrists freeze up
My fingers, callused and scratched and prearthritic, look to me like good working hands
And I realize
Hashtag lifegoals
That I always wanted to have tough old lady hands
To go with the long silver braid
I saw on an old lady zipping her bike down Commercial Street in Provincetown
When I was a little girl.	
My blood vessels pop
My back and legs ache 
I’m smeared with good brown dirt
I’m saving earthworms
Even the huge ones that came from Asia.
I stop
Squat
Pinch them gently
Fling them into the grass
I dig again.
I am dazzled that I can move so much earth  
From here to there
My wheelbarrow, my shovel, my headphones, 
My Hypsteria mix.
Bees, ping pong balls with wings
Circle my legs
I dig and haul and dump and I don’t want to stop
Sometimes, in the back yard, I hit rocks.
I fling them into piles. 
I have piles of shale, puddingstone, granite, red ones, yellow ones, purple ones, blue ones
The voles live in the piles
The wolf spiders live in the piles
We even had a rat,
But the red tail got it.
Sometimes, I hit a boulder
It’s like Christmas
It’s like my birthday
I work on until I have to go make dinner
I fall asleep thinking about my boulder 
How far does it go? 
How much does it weigh? 
What glorious colors will show when I pull it out and hose it off? 
The next day I run out and dig some more, 
and it is a beautiful rock. 
I will have this rock. 
I will not stop, though I am making a five foot hole in the back yard. 
And when I find the ends of my boulder I grunt and yell and lever it over and over and over again with shovels and boards and ropes, until it bookends my raspberry patch. 
My God, I love rocks so much.
The glaciers came pushing them down from Canada, 
and then the farmers who tilled the fields behind my house dumped them all in the back yard 
and covered them with lawn. 
I am undoing their hard work, 
by hand like they did, 
making new use of northern rocks. 
I am earthmoving with the last decades of my strength, 
so that when I am old and I have made myself arthritic and creaky
I can sit in my chair and look at my mounds and boulders and all of the growing things that run over them. 

--Dawn Emsellem