Call Before Digging
Jonathan Johnson

We build up and across. Even our well-
planted plans, our deepest downtown basements,
Citgo tanks and 1910 water mains
burrow ten feet, twelve at most, below ground.
Last year’s frost fingered its way as far down.

Iced dirt gripped our sewers and shoved our loose
footings into the second week of June.
Our history’s heaviest griefs refuse to sink
to warmer ground. Once buried they will
begin to rise and rust open and spoil

like stacks of canned peaches and bomb-shelter stew.
Mines fill with water. A crater opens
under a bread truck. I could give you
other examples, a whole shallow
Atlantis or Pompeii, and we could mole

our way across town. But the real fault
line toward which we’re headed, the crux
is, of course, in rows of fifty year vaults.
Mallards cross the pond and swim into cat-
tails. In any woods tree roots radiate

and anchor out against windfall. Did it
occur to Rumley in 1986
to wish to walk this lawn in our twilight?
We live now. Do these flyover geese see
house lights coming on in the valley?

previously appeared in Mid-American Review

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