An Investigation into a Clod of Soil (La Champagne, France)


Man, time made rock

into gold oil, but not here little maggots on the farm

were fascinating for the boys

One generation went to Verdun, and this year did not come back


Remember the dirty girl and boy in a basin by the pond, with grandmothers

The water ran till it was black


Green time smacked its paws to birthing October

the vines late that summer, and cold mistral, methodic potioning wind

shone fixed and strange on the horizon; the girl and boy ate grapes

watching the wind spackle a leek-colored sky


Remember the tine yell of the hunters

when they left in morning, their boots were laced high

They sped. Came back with nothing. The trees whittle from morning till night

the trample fog and fodder farm, the triple cough of the calves in birth

the skies murking the snap and bundle of rain cloud


Fever, then war the first boys died quick, they died quick. They died, and the parents

did not grieve. The parents remembered. They would keep that child

with the life-long of new births and those who survived


And in the morning after, there came a procession

as profound as the Dance of Death, but nothing like it

A marching collie dog, black and white, a tractor with a trailer of corn and wheat

an old man, a young woman, on Dutch bikes, and another dog, of an unknown breed

on the harsh land, in their slow way, crossing the earth


And then it broke. None were friends. The farmer lay his corn near the barn

the old man, the young woman were not together

but the two dogs, friendless and knowing it, made zigzags in a field of buried bones


-Christopher Ketcham