It covers everything, fine powder,
the earth’s gold breath falling softly
on the dark wood dresser, blue ceramic bowls,
picture frames on the wall. It wafts up
from canyons, carried on the wind,
on the wings of birds, in the rough fur of animals
as they rise from the ground. Sometimes it’s copper,
sometimes dark as ink. In great storms,
it even crosses the sea. Once,
when my grandmother was a girl,
a strong gale lifted red dust from Africa
and took it thousands of miles away
to the Caribbean where people swept it
from their doorsteps, kept it in small jars,
reminder of that other home.
Gandhi said, “The seeker after truth
should be humbler than the dust.”
Wherever we go, it follows.
I take a damp cloth, swipe the windowsills,
the lamp’s taut shade, run a finger
over the dining room table.
And still, it returns, settling in the gaps
between floorboards, gilding the edges
of unread books. What could be more loyal,
more lonely, and unsung?
From Bonfire Opera (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2020). Posted by kind permission of the poet.