As write, I have enjoyed getting my hands dirty, working with others in the local community garden here in Carrboro. Being near the earth, hands dirty with the stuff of new life, is a core part I think of our heritage here in the south. On both sides of my family, there have been those who worked the soil through many generations. Working with the soil in my own plodding way connects me with that heritage and fills me with memories of helping my mother in her garden as a little boy.
Some years ago, with that in mind, I wrote this poem which reflects on some of the themes of our current series on the Lord’s Prayer.
May it help you connect with what you find holy this day.
Your progressive redneck preacher,
“Split a log and I am there;
lift a stone and you will find me”
So, they tell me, you have promised.
But I remember my little hands,
fingers growing blackened and dirty
from splitting rain-softened logs,
in which I found
but damp worlds unexpected
grubs and bugs crawling in tiny colonies
dug deep into ancient wood
which were as busy and full of life
as the exhaust filled asphalt streets
which are surrounded not by echoing bird song
or crunch of leaves
but the squeal of tire and honk of horn.
Stones I then lifted
only to feel damp earth beneath
full of red worms
that wriggled wrapping round my fingers
as tight as that red forget-me-not string
I once placed on my pinkie
to remember an upcoming birthday.
I cannot but wonder
had I heard you whisper those words then,
while gathering those night-crawlers, crickets, and grubs
preparing to ride with daddy
to the lake behind Uncle Charles’ old place
in search of bass, catfish, and brim,
might I have thought
that those insect eyes
I found staring back at me
the very eyes of God?
I remember too,
while sitting with Cecil
in biology class
that drop of water, pressed into thin slide,
expanding under borrowed lens
into a world
where little galaxies
of amoebas, bacteria, and algae
danced as if across some newfound patch of sky
just like the schools of fish
daddy and I watched when, our chore done,
we sat pole, in hand, waiting for our first bite.
Those moments I would look up
surrounded by the song of owl cries and bobcat calls
mingling with the music of overeager crickets
who were unaware of their fallen brothers
hanging like victims of some forgotten war
upon our fishing hooks
and I would witness
the same dance there,
in pinpoints of light
circling a crescent moon
as bright and radiant as the lights
of Los Angeles were
when they gleamed beneath the lookout point
in the La Crescenta hills
where my love and I later sat
in soft embrace.