Letter to America
I submit to you a handful of dirt. It is yours, of you. You of it. That lowly stuff you walk upon, across. Bulldoze, blast, move, tunnel through, pave over, drive on, park on. That dirt you plant your gardens in, kneeling on as if in prayer as you push your seeds into it. Dirt from which you reap your harvest. Dirt you bury your treasures and your dog and your horse and your mother in, dirt to which we’ll all return.
That hard earth against which you fall, skin your knees, scuff your palms—how many times, as a child, is it ground into us, or us into it? Each time’s like a small awakening; I watch the surprise in the eyes of the children on the playground where I teach school, in the moments just after falling, the act of getting up again like some kind of little-noticed rebirth. Getting to your feet after a fall is re-entering the world you never left but must learn again and again how to see it, to watch where you’re going. Soft earth which catches us. Faithful dirt, there just beneath us. And us so faithless. We bumble across this earth, forgetting it.
It is the foundation, common to everyone. (Common means both ordinary and also belonging to or shared by all.) This ordinary dirt, whose expanse we love to traverse, to travel over and through: I am trying to stand still and dig into it.
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