Aren’t you glad at least that the earthworms
Under the grass are ignorant, as they eat the earth,
Of the good they confer on us, that their silence
Isn’t a silent reproof for our bad manners,
Our never casting earthward a crumb of thanks
For their keeping the soil from packing so tight
That no root, however determined, could pierce it?
Imagine if they suspected how much we owe them,
How the weight of our debt would crush us
Even if they enjoyed keeping the grass alive,
The garden flowers and vegetables, the clover,
And wanted nothing that we could give them,
Not even the merest nod of acknowledgment.
A debt to angels would be easy in comparison,
Bright, weightless creatures of cloud, who serve
An even brighter and lighter master.
Lucky for us they don’t know what they’re doing,
These puny anonymous creatures of dark and damp
Who eat simply to live, with no more sense of mission
Than nature feels in providing for our survival.
Better save our gratitude for a friend
Who gives us more than we can give in return
And never hints she’s waiting for reciprocity.
“If I had nickel, I’d give it to you,”
The lover says, who, having nothing available
In the solid, indicative world, scrapes up
A coin or two in the world of the subjunctive.
“A nickel with a hole drilled in the top
So you can fasten it to your bracelet, a charm
To protect you against your enemies.”
For his sake, she’d wear it, not for her own,
So he might believe she’s safe as she saunters
Home across the field at night, the moon above her,
Below her the loam, compressed by the soles of her loafers,
And the tunneling earthworms, tireless, silent,
As they persist, oblivious, in their service.
Posted with kind permission of the poet.