Vermiculture

This poem won Second place in the 2019 2-Day Poem Contest

When I think about dying, I think about worms,

how their bodies churn dirt from decay. Comforting,

perhaps, the resurrection of human use.

Kim’s roommate worm-composts, sells bins

of wriggling redemption, and in their basement

I kneel next to the litter box by the water

heater and watch worms slip through earth like

tongues, serpentine and fleshy, gobbling blind.

Give us your eggshells, your apple cores, gorge

us on regret. See how we till it all over,

munch invisible mouths. Track the tiny

gnathic movements digesting disaster. As a child,

I learned to bisect worms on the sidewalk, loose

new life with each swift scissor slice. Got more

than one brain in there, I was told. It’ll grow

what’s missing. Now I know the worm may

survive the split, but only the head half,

and anyway, these surgeries weren’t meant to be cruel,

ensorcelled as I was by the survivability of everything:

ants emerging from baseboards, flowers after frost,

a cluster of fungi in the ditch grass. Last summer

I went fishing on the river and when Kim

curled my hook through some bait, a weave

of pink spun to barb, I looked away

from the coiled wound, the softened snag

luring below grey water. Shores velour-slick,

my spot on the mudbank turned tenuous,

toboggan skid to rippling stone. A sucker,

a perch, a pickerel, Kim pulled them all up gasping,

dug metal from lips and stuck fingers to the gills.

When I caught a bullhead I held its urgent jerk

and lurch for seconds, screaming. The awful

interruption of my line. We threw all the fish

back, born-again, but even the moon is due

for disintegration, orbital decay gnawing the

space between us. Pull in, I think, come closer.

Tap the glass. Trace our squirming efforts

at reform. Watch how we bury what’s dead.

Published online August 08 2019.

This poem was a winner in CV2’s annual 2-Day Poem Contest. Every April, CV2 challenges players to create a new original poem that uses all 10 words of our choosing. It’s poetry under pressure for prizes, publication, and personal bests. Learn how to sign up for the next 2-Day Poem Contest.