When I was a child, I dug my fingers
Into the damp soil where the weeds grew,
With their thin and gnarled roots
Like the blue veins traced on my hands.
I crawled round in the garden
Until my hands and knees stained brown,
Darker than the color of
My hair out in the sun.
I hollowed the earth with sticks and stones
Till I made an empty well,
And I filled it with soft whispers
Of wild, wondrous wishes.
When I got older, I picked from my fingers
The dirt caked beneath my nails,
The dark and dirty crescents shaped
Like the sliver of the moon reflected
In the hostile ocean, and brown
Like the wood of the fishing boats
That held the heavy weight
Of one passenger too many.
I flicked off the filthy clumps of dirt
And dust that settled on me,
A second skin that colored mine
Darker than the sun could
In the hot and humid summers.
I have washed off all the stains of soil
On my skin, soaked deep inside.
I have brushed off all the darkness
From my bones until they shine;
I file them so pale and white,
They’re colored like a ghost.
When I touch the dirt it withers,
For my fingers don’t recognize
The life of garden earth,
As unfamiliar as the faces with
Mouths smiling in old albums.
When I am no longer older, I hope my fingers
Feel between them the soft grains of dirt,
Like the small grains of broken rice.
I hope to sink my brittle hands
That hunger for a home
Into the dark and dirty ground
And live under the earth.
I hope to reacquaint myself
With the tender, loving dirt.
by Amy Nguyen