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Ode to Dirt

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.

—Sharon Olds

“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.

 

Poetry 180

About the Poet

Sharon Olds (1942- ) is one of contemporary poetry’s leading voices. Olds is the author of 13 poetry collections, including Stag’s Leap (Knopf, 2012), winner of the Pulitzer Prize.

Learn more about Sharon Olds at The Poetry Foundation.