Living Like Worms

for Annie Dillard

We are all worms. But I believe that I am a glow-worm.
Winston Churchill

I picked up my slimy, sticky, dried up body and carried it to the next reed of grass, into the next space of dirt. No die. No die. No die. I kept my heart in my gut and squeezed out all the dead cells of my skin, cleansed myself in the potpourri of the flowers, the bees rode on me and harnessed my power.

Worm. I am worm. Earth and daughter and sun. Save me, I looked up. Save the earth in my body, the dirt in my worm. I became a strong worm, a worm nothing could eat, a steel worm, a metal worm, a sunflower worm. I didn't care to be anything else.

I curled up under a deck. I ate dirt, became dirt, ate decaying roots and leaves, even the manure from a fat cow, cracked sticks. The cool air, the cool soil, dirt, foot, finger, mushroom, potato... all love me. All. All.

No birds scared me. No ground swallowed me whole, no pinch from rubber soles. My digestion kept me whole, a root in the sunken soil, and I made a tunnel to rest in. I ate more dirt and released it from behind. I drank fresh water and nibbled on thyme.

Fresh water couldn't sink me. Streets couldn't kill me, tear me a part, flatten me. I'm 600 million years old.

I drilled into the wet sand, ate a small chip of rock. I cared less than the fly and more than the bee. Wanted honey and tea, wanted to float in the mixture, ease a sting.

Earth. Inside the earth. Burrowing into the dirt and grit and slime.

I'm the earth's intestine, small gizzard, large mouth. I eat trouble whole, garbage and tissue paper. Love me. Love me, I say. I heart you. I don't need pills like you, human. I hold my own hand in despair. I'm a one worm kind of worm.

I hear you from under the deck, feel the burger drippings on my back, and wait for the broken carrot heads to fall onto me. No eyes. I don't need eyes. I feel it all, even silence, by choice.

I don't need to stalk or kill. I am holier than that. I clean the guts of the dirt, the stomach of the dead cow, split squirrel. I can live the way I want. No we. Just I, long and certain of my life, confident about my body, no eyes needed to see in a mirror what I don't like. Nothing to change. I'm the earth's angel.

I don't need approval, no validation of my prettiness, ugliness. Worm, caterpillar, wormwood, silk parachute. All worm. No doubt. Tinia.

I live anywhere I want, go where the light feels warm. My back, my belly, all the same. Worm in the dirt, line on paper, pen in the mud, poem in the grass, smile on the sidewalk. Worm slow and cool by the poolside, dried up like leather. No regrets, this worm. No bones, no jaw, no skull to hold me back.

Unhinged in the hand and in the fields and in the woods. Call me a worm, call me vermis from a great height. Human against the clouds, thoughtless giant, know-it-all. I'm the most perfect freedom, soil's necessity, pure and obedient to nature, my tail in the pond, my stomach against the bramble, my mouth in the dirt. I'll never let the grass go, the roots tangled down here next to the wild rose.

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