In Praise of Dirt

By David Salner

Dirt, dust, and mud; gumbo of ground bone; 
two million femurs in wet earth of the wide
and charming Volga; Tibia shards underfoot 

near the placid Elbe; not to mention cranium bits 
along the meandering waters of the Vistula; 
and the tidal Ota, whose sediment is home 

to delicate wrists, all those wrists, and baby 
patellae asleep in the mud, which is boundless 
when the river’s in flood; of course,

deltas like Mekong and Congo, where scapula 
repose in alluvia—all of them, every last 
flyspeck and smidgeon, honor them all,

chips of patellae and tibia snippets, pubic 
and sacrum and ulna and radius; honor
the lumbar dashed to bits, ashes and relics 

and stiffs all jumbled together in the dirt
of this round field of little-known death—
honor them, sing, kneel down and feel

the smudge on your knee, the wet spot 
soaking through your new pair of jeans.

Of David Salner’s sixth poetry collection, John Skoyles, Ploughshares poetry editor, said: “The Green Vault Heist is not only a beautiful book, it is great company.” Summer Words: New and Selected Poems also appeared in 2023. More writing appears in Threepenny Review, Ploughshares, North American Review, and Valparaiso Poetry Review. He’s worked as iron ore miner, steelworker, librarian, baseball usher. Events like the brutal October 7, 2023, massacre of Jews inspired this poem.