Frequently Asked Questions: #6

Now that you have a child, has your writing practice changed?

Digging rock from hardscaped beds, I think,
is a bit like not writing poetry—like thinking
about writing poetry but digging rock from my backyard
instead. If you’ve never pulled rock, with your own
gloved hands, or a trowel, with a flat-headed shovel,
on your knees, or squatting, or half bending so
your back will hurt by nightfall, never learned how
best to corral the rugged little stones so you might
scoop them and haul them to a container that will bear them
away, turn them into some other fool’s problem, or if you have
and your fingertips remember like mine remember a day’s work
that wore holes into sweet, pink, flowered, garden gloves—
though when I called it quits after more hours
than I labored with my daughter, it seemed
I’d hardly cleared any rock at all—you might wonder
why, when my shovel came down on a pyramid
of knob-sized gray and white and speckled stones
near the struggling young juniper and opened
a nest of lice-small cream eggs and writhing red and black
bodies I checked first that these were not termites—
my mercy limited by my love for the wood and mortar
I call home—then replaced the river stones
on the teeming anthill and turned to clear rock
from some other section of my hardscaped bed.

Camille Dungy is the author of three books of poetry, most recently Smith Blue, and has also edited collections including Black Nature: Four Centuries of African American Nature Poetry.