now there is brown earth under my fingernails

As we wrap up National Poetry Month, here is my second to last (one more tomorrow!) poem, a sensual celebration of spring, of our love of the earth and for each another by the one and only Audre Lorde (1934-1992).

illustration of a tomato
Art by Kristina Closs

“Sowing”

It is the sink of the afternoon
the children asleep or weary.
I have finished planting the tomatoes
in this brief sun after four days of rain
now there is brown earth under my fingernails
And sun full on my skin
with my head thick as honey
the tips of my fingers are stinging
from the rich earth
but more so from the lack of your body
I have been to this place before
where blood seething commanded
my fingers fresh from the earth
dream of plowing a furrow
whose name should be you.

from The Selected Works of Audre Lorde

it’s easy to pretend that we don’t love the world

In French, “aubade” means “dawn serenade” and the word has also come to mean songs or poems for lovers parting in the morning. If a poet has an aubade in his or her collection, I often for some reason find myself gravitating towards it, as I was to this poem by Patrick Phillips (1970-) from his newest collection, Elegy for a Broken Machine. As I make my way through this book, I’m appreciating his meditations on the elegant and cruel mechanics of life, the broken machines that surround us and comprise us as human beings.

phillips

“Aubade”

It’s easy to pretend
that we don’t love

the world.
But then there is

your freckled skin. Then:
your back’s faint

lattice-work of bones.
I’m not saying this

makes up for suffering,
or trying to pretend

that each day’s little ladder
of sunlight, creeping

across the bed at dawn,
somehow redeems it

for the thousand ways
in which we’ll be forsaken.

Maybe, sweet sleeper,
breathing next to me

as I scratch and scrawl
these endless notes,

I’m not saying anything
but what the sparrows out

our window sing,
high in their rotten oak.