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The Farmers of Good Dirt

There are seven pillars of wisdom in this world
and we can't own them all.

The Harvard Biologist, for example,
on the radio this morning

said should human kind become extinct
the loss to Life Itself would be rather slim--

a limited number of species at risk:
ourselves, and the mites

that burrow in our foreheads.
Whereas ants . . .

ants are the tillers of soil, the garbage men;
the end of ants might be the end of everything.

The radio announcer asked the man if he killed ants in his kitchen.
He said he gives them bowls of cream.

Good luck, Mr. Ant.
Good luck, Mr. Harvard Biologist.

I think I know how this story ends:
at high noon in Tennessee, you don't have to see a bird

to see the shadow of that bird
gliding like a cool hand on the hills.

Think of what you see everyday without seeing--
on the back of your eyelids, in your irises,

in your mouth's cavity and your armpit,
in the eye of the fly in the eye of your soup.

Think of the astronaut who sheds he silver suit
and climbs, naked, from the rib of his ship:

himself, an object in orbit
and nothing--I mean it, nothing--for miles.

There are places for people like that.
There are wells on the side of the universe

where no lips should drink. Teeth
turn to water, and the flesh-pulp of cheeks

turns to water, the throat, the sinuses, onward
until being water is all being; wanting water

all wanting. I've seen spots right here in Shawsville
so thick with growth and shine

it makes me wonder
my feet don't come out green.

That's one idea of heaven--we'll be strutting around
with stars on our bellies and artichoke skin

and the mouse will shit and bathe
in the dog's water dish

and the bees will gnaw and batter
the inside plaster off the walls

and the porch light will call forth
all the moths of this world

and where you are is air
and where you were is air

and the house does not dream
of being any other house

and we're all in the kitchen,
moths in our hair,

gulping ant juice
from tall silver cups.

--Mary Crockett Hill

Originally published in the October/November 1998 issue of Boston Review


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