When My Daughter Found a Crack Pipe in the Back Yard

There is rich, dark earth under
these streets. I know.
I saw it myself when the machines
dug up the asphalt, replacing the veins
of this city.

So we went out into the backyard
all seven of us
into our small patch of green
searching for that rich earth.
A gutted building looked down
smiled at us through broken
teeth, gashed
eyes, and we smiled back
toasted him with raised rakes

tore up the new grass
the barely-spring mud.
Shovels clanged against unforeseen
old bricks
a line of beams that used
to border a walkway
someone worked hard to build
now covered.

working on the soil where tomatoes
will soon grow
called out


What’s this?

In her pale palm, shining
in the sunlight,
hollowed out and jagged,
a crack pipe
filled with mud, it’s bulb
round and smooth
the stem mostly missing.

I told her what it was
because this is the world
this is where we live
and sometimes the easiest
answer to a hard question is simply
the answer.

Then I threw it in the trash
and kept digging
because sometimes it’s okay
to go back to pretending these things
don’t exist
at least for an afternoon
or until she’s a teenager.

We turned over old soil
cutting it open
lining it with furrows.
Cade planted tiny seeds one
after the other one
after the other one
after the other.

Sam and Abra
on hands and muddy knees
crept along the rows and
covered everything
and we prayed for death
unless a seed dies.

We took a deep breath
looked at the brown yard
the fresh dirt
the tell-tale rows.
Leo crawled on the patio,
brown smudges on his face.
He smiled
rich earth.

We exhaled
gathered our things
went inside

and prayed for rain
or whatever it takes
to get us out
of this present death.

* * * * *

Other poems:

What They Never Tell You
For Maile On Our Fifteenth Wedding Anniversary: A Confession