Tuesday, December 6, 2011

My Country is This Dirt

Monday, another of those days allowing time in the afternoon to browse aimlessly in a couple of poetry collections, eye out for a shaping of words that grabs attention, a voice speaking in a personal language of the heart, shared thoughts worth pondering.

Ellie Schoenfeld is a native of Duluth, Minnesota, and the author of three poetry collections: Screaming Red Gladiolus! (1999), Difficult Valentines (2004) and The Dark Honey: New and Used Poems (2009). Her work has twice been featured on Garrison Keillor’s The Writer’s Almanac. Schoenfeld co-founded Poetry Harbor in Duluth and is a past recipient of an ARAC/McKnight Artist Fellowship. Screaming Red Gladiolus! was nominated for a Northeastern Minnesota Book Award. The poems below are both from the 2009 collection, The Dark Honey. The first is a wonderfully uncommon take on the hard-to-define concept of patriotism, something surely more than a Pledge of Allegiance and American flag in the front yard.


My country is this dirt
that gathers under my fingernails
when I am in the garden.
The quiet bacteria and fungi,
all the little insects and bugs
are my compatriots. They are
idealistic, always working together
for the common good.
I kneel on the earth
and pledge my allegiance
to all the dirt of the world,
to all of that soil which grows
flowers and food
for the just and unjust alike.
The soil does not care
what we think about or who we love.
It knows our true substance,
of what we are really made.
I stand my ground on this ground,
this ground which will
recruit us all
to its side.

And next a plain unadorned Steinbeck view of passing time in a laundromat among ordinary people.


because it’s like being

in a John Steinbeck novel.

Next best thing is the laundromat.

That’s where all people

who would be on the bus if they had the money

hang out. This is my crowd.

Tonight there are cleaning people appalled

at the stupidity of anyone

who would put powder detergent

in the clearly marked LIQUID ONLY slot.

The couple by the vending machine

are fondling each other.

You’d think the orange walls

and florescent lights

would dampen that energy

but it doesn’t seem to.

It’s a singles scene here on Saturday nights.

I confide to the fellow next to me

that I suspect I’m being taken

in by the triple loader,

maybe it doesn’t hold any more

than the regular machines

but I’m paying an extra fifty cents.

I tell him this meaningfully

holding handfuls of underwear.

He claims the triple loader

gives a better wash.

I don’t ask why,

just cruise over to the pop machine,

aware that my selection

may provide a subtle clue.

I choose Wild Berry,

head back to my clothes.


  1. I really like her stuff. My kind of quick clear images. Little short stories--especially 'I Ride Greyhound' with its sharp capture of the people inhabiting the place.

  2. I really like both of these poems because they talk about the down to earth things......things most people don't think about.


About Me

My photo
Oak Hill, Florida, United States
A longtime expat relearning the footwork of life in America