The Soild I Have Eaten by Aimee Nezhukumatathil

The state soil of New York is named for the place where a man lost his finger to a rattlesnake. The finger lies quiet in the ground. The snake’s great-great-grandsnakes still chitter through this Honeoye soil. Sometimes one snake gets the idea he can blink his eye. He concentrates on this single thought. But a slick frog steps on a maple seed, and the snake forgets what he was thinking about.

*

Each bend of cypress root drinks a soft fen mud. Each beard dangling from a branch says, I am a dirty man who had soup for lunch. The state soil of Florida is Myakka—a fancy way of saying, Sand, sand, sand, and if you dig further still? Watery sand.

*

Casa Grande is, of course, Arizona’s state soil—salty and robin-red enough to make the bottom of your pant legs blush. Dustdevils whip against a large house set against the side of Camelback Mountain. The camel’s legs tuck up around palm tree and strip mall. He longs to eat a salad of thorn and dates. He longs to eat the leather of a saddle. If you squint, you can see the tongue clean his eye of gnats at night.

*

Harney sounds like a friend who will help you in a pinch: silty, loamy, good enough to feed your family, and mine too. In Kansas, we sit around the table and break bread with Harney soil. Good guy, that Harney.

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Illinois has dark Drummer soil—mottled loam and gray clay. A little bit of city grit and soybean. A little light and dark. Street corner and silo.

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Ohio’s Miamian soil is like coffee at a bar: medium roast, hickory, a little dash of guitar and smoke. Where is the waitress with red stain on her cheeks, old phone numbers tucked into the ticketbook at her hip? That used to be me. Where is the torn and pilled-up pool table, the dart board, and the wall behind it pimpled with holes?

This poem can be found in Aimee Nezhukumatathil’s book Lucky Fish.

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To learn more about Aimee Nezhukumatathil, visit her website by clicking here or her page on the Poetry Foundation’s website by clicking here.