Friday, March 23, 2007


Down spade in and up spade out,
tossing all the dirt about.

Down spade in and up spade worm,
among the tangled roots it squirms.

Down spade in and up spade shoe,
mouldy, mangled and unglued.

Down spade in and up spade bone,
one to which the dog was thrown.

Down spade in and up spade sand,
a shifty, squishy strand of land.

Down spade in and up spade clay
deep below the bright blue day.

Down spade in and up spade shock,
my shovel just hit solid rock!

Down spade in and up spade fossil,
imprint of a Rex colossal.

Down spade in and up comes water.
After this its getting hotter.

Down spade in and streaming lava,
for a volcano in Java.

Down spade in, I’m at the centre.
(Not too bad a place for winter.)

Then all the layers come round once more
as I shovel past the core:
.......lava, water, fossil, rock,
.......clay, sand, bone and shoe.
The worms of course are waiting too.

Down spade in and up I come
All grubby in the China sun.


Inconsequential said...

Most excellent, lovely rhythm and images.

I assume this is a set style, though being no poet; I couldn't say what sort, but kinda fancy a stab at it myself :)

Not being picky, as I really do think it's great. But I kept wanting the second line to read
‘Tossing dirt all about’
I think it's because of the 'the' avoidance thing, not quite sure where it's from or why I think that way, but I do try really hard to not use that word...
Maybe it's from school...

Probably best to ignore me, I’m getting old and need sleep :)

ish said...

Inc, you are one of the few who ever offers a little crit. and I like it. The poetry-editor encourger from last May/June said from his store of wisdom, that if he sees a lot of 'the' & 'of', the poem is sus right away. So yeah, I'll question the 'the'.

Inconsequential said...

oh, I didn't know 'of' was a suspect to avoid as well...shall bare that in mind...bare/bear...hmmm, guess thats proof it's nearly bed time :)

It's odd, but that one 'the' did stand out, but the rest didn't really, they seemed necessary...

is it a style?

Inconsequential said...

oh, and glad your back, did you have fun?

missmellifluous said...

Some children at school were digging a hole to China this week. They were sure they could get there by Friday so that I could travel to China at lunchtime and buy some yummy food to eat. This poem reminds me of those little determined diggers.

It's funny that inc. doesn't like the "the". Personally I like the "the". It creates a nice rhythm in the line. However, I would remove the and from the line above so that "Down spade in and up spade out," read "Down spade in, up spade out..."

I would not keep the "the" in the fourth line though. I don't think you need it.

I hope this poem becomes a children's book! I can see the illustrations already.

ish said...

Missmellifluous. I'm taken by your students and their hole-to-China food expectations. :-) What year do you teach? And thanks for the crit. It made me notice a couple of cliches which I have now removed. I tried taking out the 'and' and it works. I am undecided though, because with the 'and' in, the regular uninterupted (sp?) scan seems to echo the regular heave ho of digging.
I took out the 'the' in the 4th stanza. Is that the one you mean? The 4th line seems to need the 'the' to scan.
A book? I sort of feel this poem is a tad bit mediocre. Maybe a way-station to a better one?

Inc., Thank you. It is good to be back. I was at a rural school in Ohio which turned out to my surpize to be in a town at the heart of America's largest Amish community. Like a bit of time travel. Wonderful kids.

Inconsequential said...

Cool, Amish? crazy dudes dressed in black, horse and carts etc?

Another example of how it kinda goes wrong in my opinion, but at the same time I so admire them for sticking to it, I bet that was an amazing experience for you. And it sort of explains the infrequent computer usage :)

missmellifluous said...

Hi ish,
I do agree with you about the rhythms: cutting either the "and" or the "the" would create uneven lines. Perhaps they're keepers. Even so, I still think the "Down spade in, up spade out" version captures the digging rhythm mainly because the comma creates a little caesura that is like the moment when your spade reaches as far as it can go and you stop hoing in order to heave. I am thinking of the "Down spade in" as the downward motion and the "up spade out" as the upward. However, it is possible that I dig to a slightly different rhythm. In fact, I am not very good a digging. And as you say, eliminating the "and" creates an uneven line.

Your poem also reminds me of Seamus Heaney's poem by the same name.

I teach Years 9-12, however the school that I am teaching at goes from Kindy-Year 12 and I have a sandpit duty where it is supposed to be my job to stop the Kindy-Year 2 children from hitting each other over the head with their plastic spades. It is here that I came to encounter my diggers. There was one Year 2 boy standing at the side of the sandpit telling the others of the impossibility of them ever digging to China because of all the lava that they would encounter at the earth's core. Adorably the little ones looked at him like he was quite mad and kept on digging.

ish said...

Seamus Heaney's digging poem was a treat and so were all your remarks and especially those of the little sand pit crew.