Planting Cone-Flower Seeds

By JAN BALL

I hadn’t seen an earthworm in at least
ten years the way we, walking to
St. Benedict’s Elementary School
in Chicago, used to first smell iron
— rain or worms we never knew — then
look down to see worms wiggling on
the flat pavement in rainbow puddles
(I always thought they came up
through the cracks, maybe they did)
and later we dissected them in biology
class, the smell of formaldehyde as
unforgettable as pot roast simmering
for Sunday dinner as we studied our
phylum for earthworms: Annelida,
at the dining room table until Mother
called us to set it with the best cutlery.

Now, I kneel uncharacteristically to turn
the crumbly clay that worms have processed
through their digestive systems into sweet,
rich soil beside the farmhouse that we’re
renovating and plant the slivered seeds
that Kathy gave me. Again, I see the fat
earthworms wiggling as regularly as black
olives lay inert in a glass bowl at Thanksgiving.
I know that next summer the purple blossoms
will grow petaled in the afternoon shelter
of the red shingled house that radiates
the constant sun in the morning.

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