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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

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