The Burying Beetle

by Ada Limón

Ada Limón

I like to imagine even the plants
want attention, so I weed for four
hours straight, assuring the tomatoes
feel July’s hot breath on the neck,
the Japanese maple can stretch,
the sweet potatoes, spider plants,
the Asiatic lilies can flourish in this
place we’ve dared to say we “own.”
Each nicked spindle of morning glory
or kudzu or purslane or yellow rocket
(Barbarea vulgaris, for Christ’s sake),
and I find myself missing everyone I know.
I don’t know why. First come the piles
of nutsedge and creeper and then an
ache that fills the skin like the Cercospora
blight that’s killing the blue skyrocket juniper
slowly from the inside out. Sure, I know
what it is to be lonely, but today’s special
is a physical need to be touched by someone
decent, a pulsing palm to the back. My man
is in South Africa still, and people just keep
dying even when I try to pretend they’re
not. The crown vetch and the curly dock
are almost eliminated as I survey the neatness
of my work. I don’t feel I deserve this time,
or the small plot of earth I get to mold into
someplace livable. I lost God awhile ago.
And I don’t want to pray, but I can picture
the plants deepening right now into the soil,
wanting to live, so I lie down among them,
in my ripped pink tank top, filthy and covered
in sweat, among red burying beetles and dirt
that’s been turned and turned like a problem
in the mind.

Last updated October 24, 2022