Ditch

By David Thoreen

On the side of the house I dug a ditch
than ran the length of my life. When
it rained, I chipped away with adze
and spade, then lined the whole with fabric:
the wool suit I wore for first communion,
my Batman costume from fifth grade
Halloween, the satin bowling shirts
I rescued from an uncle’s cedar chest
after he died (June, the summer I turned
thirteen), a drawer of cotton tees, and the
pale shirts the rich silk ties I purchased
for a job that swallowed my twenties
like an anxious and ravening other, the tux
in which I married, even a sweatshirt
that said Des Moines, in cursive. All this
was stretched aling the ditch. I threw in
the newspapers I’d delivered—three years’
worth—and the time I’d devoted to folding them,
each already beyond penance or prayer.

I pitched in my last confession, a couple
of car accidents, the week in the ICU
after my appendix burst. Good riddance
to the dances where I got drunk, the hangovers
that followed. It was hard to let go of the night
I stood on a golf course in Mason City, Iowa,
looking up at the Milky way, a night that was warm
and smooth in my fingers, but in the end, I dropped
it in too, along with the day my son was born,
and the light in my wife’s eyes as she held him.

I covered it all with a layer of leaves, and over that
rakes seven tons of crushed stone. Anyone
passing this edge of arborvitae would see
a simple path, leading from here to there.


David Thoreen’s poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction have appeared in American Literary Review, Natural Bridge, New Letters, Presence, Slate, South Dakota Review, and other magazines. He teaches writing and literature at Assumption University, in Worcester, Massachusetts.

Originally appeared in NOR 29

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