Thursday, March 24, 2016

Ancestors

With unaccountable relief I plunge my hands into the dirt
to rip out spring’s first weeds,
not because I like to kill young things
but because I feel my hands belong there.

Back bent, fingernails and cuticles lined with black, I feel
a straight line connecting me to my hillbilly ancestors.
American peasants, Appalachians. 
The people at the bottom, closest to the ground.

It’s like the time my husband broke a plate at Barnes & Noble,
ill-balanced on the lip of a trash receptacle while transferring our café fare to our table.
I heard the shatter, like a shotgun firing at a race,
and I was off: 

Crouched low on the ground, picking up pieces – 
the big shards but also the microscopic flecks – 
when a more urbane person would have summoned an employee
then sat back down to continue looking at their magazine.

My stuffed pretzel had been on the plate that smashed; it bounced on the ground
but I picked it up and put it on a napkin, intending to still eat it.
“You guys did a good job cleaning this mess up!” said the young guy with the mop.
“Don’t you want another pretzel?” said the café woman twice, incredulous.

But I want to eat it like a good girl who doesn’t ask for much,
like an Appalachian who is grateful and doesn’t waste,
like a person who doesn’t garden as a hobby but 
whose hands feel at home in the dirt. 

 

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