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The Sandbox


I thought the sand had been brought in from the sea.
It was fine as gold dust, and always cool,
even in summer. We moved it with toys fashioned
in vague approximation of the real backhoes
and dump trucks that had quarried and carried it
from the limestone pit near Lena to the farm,
painted the same canary-yellow but beginning to rust
from the rain we left them out in. I didn’t know
then the central role Caterpillar Company has played
in making tanks and submarines for the US military,
nor could I know that even as I kneeled in a sandbox
in Illinois, up in Olympia, Washington there lived
a girl named Rachel Corrie who’d grow up to be
crushed by a bulldozer while defending the home
of a Palestinian pharmacist. I was just playing
in a sandbox. But in my mind I too was removing
mountaintops, dredging lakes, building dams while
the birds touched down like choppers and rose
veering through the air, and the cats dug, burying
their waste, and the dog, lying down to cool her body,
cleared a whole hillside with her tail. And after all
my damages had been wrought, I too abandoned
the land my father had framed with two-by-fours
like a settlement. Wind blew topsoil over the sand,
sowed seed in it, and the box began to resemble
those stretches of grassy beach you see when
you’re nearing the sea, and everyone you’re with
in the car grows quiet.
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