Solid Ground

My children always have dirt
in their fingernails.
“Clean your nails!
That’s disgusting,”
I bark at them.
I don’t quite understand how it happens
or why I tell them to clean them.
It’s not as if we are not of Earth,
Digging our way past layers —
sand and clay, rich humus,
bedrock, bone, a rogue plastic shovel, a hard grievance.

There’s nothing like a toddler who seeks the sandbox
in every corner of the playground
afraid to go into real Earth,
seeking something contrived,
before she even knows of Earth’s offerings.
Yet, we tell them to wash their hands and faces.
Stop soiling your knees.
Come inside, you’ll get dirty.
Come inside, the mosquitos are out.
Come inside, the world is difficult, complicated.

And the soil down here in the south
is haunting, really.
Coarse, unforgivable, quicksand into despair,
tangled webs of insects and filth.
Stand on it for a short time.
See how that Bermuda grass swallows your toes.
Feel how unwelcoming it is.
Days like today, when it’s cold but hot down here,
when the sun is, once again, playing favorites,
I seek solid ground.
The luxurious New England green carpet
I rolled around on as a kid.

When I first introduced my children
to the New England coast,
I left them outside
in that soft green, rich soil,
and salty air.
There were secrets for it to tell them.
I devoured those secrets as a child.
At dusk, I brought out a wool blanket and turkey sandwiches.

We counted stars until the moon shone over us
and the breeze over the bay
rocked the sailboats to sleep.

Poem by Beth Curran

I have been teaching high school English for 21 years and strive to incorporate poetry into the daily lives of young people in order to help them cope with their daily struggles and questions about life. My poetry focuses on the everyday struggles and mysteries of being a woman, a wife, a mother, and a New England girl at heart.