Joseph Mills, Digging to China

Joseph Mills

We didn’t get far
since under the sod
and thin sheet of dirt
was rock that broke
our fathers’ spades,
splintered the screwdriver handles
we hit with a sledge,
and bent several table knives.

When we asked an older sister
how we could get firecrackers,
M-80s or some kind of explosives,
she walked outside
surveyed the shallow basin
gouged in the yard
and said, You can’t get there
like that
. Her tone said
we were idiots, but I heard,
like that.
Like That
It was possible.
You could get there.

Author’s Comment: Eudora Welty said there is no story until there are two stories. Here, the two are straight-forward, but, for me, endlessly interesting — what we say and what we hear, what we say and what we mean, what we say and what we don’t say. As Krazy Kat says, “Lenguage is that we may mis-unda-stend each udda.” There also is the discrepancy between our naive ambitions and what can be accomplished.

Bio: Joseph Mills is the Sarah Burress Wall Distinguished Professor of Humanities at the NC School of the Arts. Sending Christmas Cards to Huck and Hamlet is his fourth collection of poetry.


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