Dirty Work

By David Filer

In spite of the record rains,
I'm now sure that it's summer,
because the moles in my yard
are at it again, heaping
dirt from their burrows about
the yard, a mound by the low
rock wall along the sidewalk,
a larger one in the side
yard, back by the gas meter,
a third in the garden plot,
up-rooting my rosemary,
doubtless more I haven't found,
doubtless many more to come.

But I grudgingly admire
their effort, imagining
how dark their burrows must be
when they awake from their
long winter sleep, how much dirt
pushing must be required to
cleanse their unseen homes,
make them usable again.

And I can use the fresh dirt
elsewhere, sifted and stone-free
as it is when it reaches
the surface and starts to dry:
the planters on the porch have 
settled and need filling up,
like some low spots in the lawn.

They do dirty work, the moles,
of necessity using
some senses other than sight
to guide their effort.  And one 
presumes it works, that somewhere
beneath the garden and lawn
(are they just beneath my yard,
or do they spread out across
the neighborhood?) there is room
for whatever the moles do
down there in their damp village
of small rooms and connecting
hallways—sleep, dream (but of what?),
enjoy their grub meals, make love,
raise families, keep a watchful 
eye — or maybe ear — out for
the many neighborhood cats
in their nocturnal prowling
before they bring another
load of dirt to the surface.

I've heard of ways to kill them
or drive them away — traps,
gas, injections of canine
urine.  But what's to be gained
if all they do is pile fresh 
dirt up where I can use it?

I've never seen them above,
about on the lawn or in
the garden, only their mounds,
the unmistakable sign
that they do, in fact, exist,
that something real is down there
working, making some changes,
and leaving sure signs — however
inelegant — of its work.

Something I can believe in,
more comforting, in a way,
than looking up at the vast
heavens (the opposite view)
and hoping to see up there
evidence of prepotense —
God, gods, or some other
mystery that explains this life
we lead, its piles of refuse,
contests, contradictions, heaps
of dark soil excavated 
from the mind's clogged passages.

Perhaps that's all they are,
this solid earth, myriad 
stars, the vast and majestic 
figures we personify 
when we look upward at night:
perhaps just the detritus 
of God deep in his unseen
and unknowable burrow
at the center of the dark
and infinite universe,
all we see here and up there
merely his leavings, tailings,
the useless stuff of his work
to keep his own hallways clean.

Gods, moles: what's the difference?
It's all in one's perspective.
And in the end, or if not
the end, at least the moment,
life's about keeping busy,
keeping order, whatever
the scale, even on this page
with its hundred lines of words,
hedged at seven syllables,
leaving the mind's spaces clear,
ready for some useful thought.
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About David Filer

David Filer lives in Portland, Oregon with his wife, Marlene Anderson, creator and director of The Imani Project, working with villagers in coastal Kenya on HIV/AIDS prevention, orphan support and related medical issues. His most recent books are The Fear of Love (Plain View Press, 2012) and Housekeeping, a chapbook of sonnets (Finishing Line Press, 2012).

One Comment

  1. Charanjit Singh
    Posted April 2017 at 12:26 pm | Permalink

    Wonderful! The poem embraces the entire enigma of life itself – the mole, the gods and the man in-between. Thank you David!

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