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Episode 176 Topsoil, In Repentance - Sherry Shenoda


Connor and Jack discuss the sonically and thematically dense poem "Topsoil, in Repentance" by Sherry Shenoda. Shenoda's book MUMMY EATERS was longlisted for the National Book Award in 2022. The conversation moves from an exploration of internal rhymes and alliteration, to the climate crisis, to the religious implications of the word "repentance," to soil strata, and to the relative weight of humanity.

You can find out more about Sherry Shenoda, here.

Read the poem, here.

Topsoil, in Repentance
By: Sherry Shenoda

On my mind daily with the insistence of a metronome
is that thin granular layer, rich humus, spare humility,
black earth daily lifted and blown into the Gulf of Mexico.

Thinnest of salvations with a margin of error
wide as the pink, gelatinous body of the earthworm
Which my spade barely misses, and every time

my tines enter the ground, my wrist twists the damp loam,
I breathe easier to see them wriggling, unburied
fleeing the light, burrowing back down, aerating

this earth we have packed down with our culpability
this immense density of earth, only the topmost of which
can support the unimaginable numbers of us, our great warm swarm

Squinting up in immense sunlight I hear the silent swish and tick
the back-and-forth rhythm, the last few seconds before midnight
the enormity of the loan, which has been called in full

The hazy buzzing of the furry bees, busy in the branches
above my exposed neck, on any given day a stay
for a little while longer, of execution
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