soil-oiling the dirt

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The Dead
Don Paterson

Our business is with fruit and leaf and bloom;
though they speak with more than just the season’s tongue—
the colours that they blaze from the dark loam
all have something of the jealous tang

of the dead about them. What do we know of their part
in this, those secret brothers of the harrow,
invigorators of the soil—oiling the dirt
so liberally with their essence, their black marrow?

But here’s the question. Are the flower and fruit
held out to us in love, or merely thrust
up at us, their masters, like a fist?

Or are they the lords, asleep amongst the roots,
granting to us in their great largesse
this hybrid thing—part brute force, part mute kiss?

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