Dear dirt, I am sorry I slighted you, I thought that you were only the background for the leading characters—the plants and animals and human animals. It’s as if I had loved only the stars and not the sky which gave them space in which to shine. Subtle, various, sensitive, you are the skin of our terrain, you’re our democracy. When I understood I had never honored you as a living equal, I was ashamed of myself, as if I had not recognized a character who looked so different from me, but now I can see us all, made of the same basic materials— cousins of that first exploding from nothing— in our intricate equation together. O dirt, help us find ways to serve your life, you who have brought us forth, and fed us, and who at the end will take us in and rotate with us, and wobble, and orbit.
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“Ode to Dirt” from ODES by Sharon Olds, compilation copyright © 2016 by Sharon Olds.
Used by permission of Alfred A. Knopf, an imprint of the Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC.
All rights reserved.
Sharon Olds (1942- ) is the author of twelve poetry collections, including Stag’s Leap (Knopf 2012), winner of the Pulitzer Prize.