A LESSON FROM MY FATHER ABOUT MANURE
He said it had a sweet smell back on the farm
different from what was left in the streets of the City
when he was a boy between fruit carts and hawkers
a stuck-in-your-throat sweetness
behind the stable out in the field past the haystacks
on the way to milk the cows at daybreak
it was part of the grass there, just the end of what
had been a sweet beginning, green grass wet in the morning
soak-your-boots wet. The manure did not
have a bad smell he insisted,
context was everything: horse shit
or cow shit on the farm was the kind of sweet
that could make you remember,
could be the evidence you needed that air,
could hold the knowledge of a good life lived.
Really, shit did not have a bad smell unless
it was someplace it did not belong
on the street, dragged into your house,
or stuck in the lie of someone’s terrible excuse.
In those cases manure was not the perfume of farm animals
waking to sunbreak. It was a warning
you’d woken in the wrong place, the wrong life.
JULIA LISELLA’s poetry books include Always (2014), Terrain (2007), and Love Song Hiroshima (2004), a chapbook. Her poems have been widely anthologized and appear in Alaska Quarterly Review, Ocean State Review, Valparaiso, Prairie Schooner, Crab Orchard Review, VIA: Voices in Italian Americana, Antiphon, Literary Mama, Pebble Lake Review, and others. She teaches at Regis College in Weston, Massachusetts and runs the Italian American Writers Association In Boston Readings at I AM Books in Boston’s North End, and serves on the board of the Robert Creeley Foundation.