Earthworms

By Rita Rud

The humble earthworm,

my science teacher said,

cutting through its soft body

with no backbone,

showing us the segments.

Annelida. His thick fingers,

stained with nicotine,

pulled off its cocoon

for eggs—clitellum.

 

We girls stared—disgusted—

as the boys pulled more

from the plastic bag,

tearing the bodies apart

between them.

 

Today, in a different land,

rain’s driven them up

from winter’s burrows

to bird beaks. Dropped:

stunned on the sidewalk,

stretched out like

swollen matchsticks,

drying in a strong wind.

 

The robins are hunting

the grass for fresher ones

and I look away, torn

between rescue and nature’s

law, and the time my

daughter found them

dying like this

on the driveway,

and dug earth

from the hard ground

with her fingertips

to fill a Tupperware

bowl to save them.

 

Now she is

painting her nails:

each one a pink

pearl at the end

of her fingers;

singing under

headphones,

a boy band’s

song of love

for the new millennium.

 

___

After training as an RN and then completing a BS degree in the UK, Rita Rud emigrated to the United States to marry her husband and completed her MFA at Purdue University. After grad school, she taught writing at her alma mater until she moved to Washington State, where she is now a professor for the Honors College and founder of its literary and arts journal which will be open to students in Honors programs in the Pacific Northwest.

Before attending grad school, she was the coordinating editor for Bookbird: World of Children’s Books. The recipient of multiple teaching and writing awards, she had the opportunity to study with Patricia Henley and Marianne Boruch, among others. She had several articles published in a local newspaper when she lived in North Carolina and won the Highlights for Children Annual Story Competition in 1994. Her readership now knows her as R.M. Rud.


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