Spring, Soil, and Poetry

Spring is here in central Maryland. It was touch and go for a while. March came in like a lion and went out like a lion, with some lamb-like days in between. Warm enough that the cherry blossoms came early in Washington, DC. April started much as March had ended. Cool days, cold days, high winds. But, Spring has marched on, and the days have steadily become warmer. Buds appeared on all the trees. Seed pods are hanging from the branches of the maple in the front yard. The hostas ringing our patio have sprung to life (now to keep the deer from eating them this year). The apple trees in the garden blossomed. Time to take care of the garden.

My son, Dylan, and I took advantage of the warm weather last weekend to finally replace the frames for the raised beds in our garden. After five years, the old frames had rotted so much they were barely holding back the soil. Or, rather, they were merging with the soil. After replacing the frames, we turned the soil, weeded, and readied the beds for planting. I love the look of freshly turned soil. And, I think Dylan did too. It was nice working with him in the garden, piecing together the frames, turning soil, talking geography and literature.

I was going to a poetry open mic and reading in Annapolis later in the day. Working in the garden with Dylan that morning, I realized I had to read “Spring Soil.” I led off with it when my turn came, standing in front of the audience, holding the pages, a little dirt still under my finger nails.


For Zachary, Dylan, and Harrison

Kneel beside me in the garden
and feel the soft, moist dirt
warmed again after winter’s freeze,
turned and readied for planting.
Scoop it, feel it in your hands,
crush the clods in your palms,
squeeze the dirt through your fingers
until your hands are rich
with a black dermis of soil.

The soil of spring is part of us,
in our psyche and our souls.
It is our past, our present, our future.
So, my sons of the soil,
descendants of farmers
who wrote lives in the earth,
take this soil, hold it in your hands,
feel the moist warmth radiate,
and no matter what you do,
or where you go in life,
turn a spadeful of dirt each spring,
take the soft, warm earth into your hands
and feed your soul.



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