Ode to the Little Worm on the Sidewalk

to you, i present this image: a dead worm
shriveled and lying on the sidewalk
after the apocalyptic flood that ravished these streets
dried the dirt and the worms tender pink flesh.

when the urban tides fell he rose
up from the soil, sprouting like a mid-June
dandelion, with his brothers up and up
until he could inch over to the asphalt

and stretch out fully. the cement was still moist
but firm—unlike the dirt-gone-mud from
the monstrous week-long rains; this little worm
(not so little then: proud and long,

fat with earth and scaly worm-vigor) found it better
than his main course-gone-soup. his little brothers
followed, blooming from one another, making a delta
of pink fleshy currents over the cracked and dimpled

sidewalk—they fled the mud looking for who-knows-what
and heading for who-knows-where; all they knew was that
the rock-hard paths and streets were salvation compared to
the washed-out Earth where so many of their own drowned.

they escaped to freedom: they made it to the surface
before the ground collapsed from the weight of gallons
of rain water: the murky industrial kind that lingers
on the grass long after it dries up from the sun.

they had no where else to go. they crawled and crawled,
the fattest little worm (the one in this mental frame) crawling farther
and farther from the grass—what seems like miles and miles—
a cross-country trip for you and i, only by the means

of his eager slothless inching. he squirmed more and more
as the rain water cleared from the ground
when the sun finally came out: it was a Friday.
he could see the grass on the other side

of the busy street: he saw a new home, freedom, prosperity:
he was a tiny pioneer searching for new fertile lands
for he and his brethren to overtake; they will build a new life
in dry, parched soil—Manifest Destiny on a grander scale.

but as the sun came out and the air became dryer
the journey became harsher: the cracked and beaten path
became a Teflon frying pan on medium-low heat,
searing the little worm trail; the biggest, fattest worm

(the one from this image now framed in your head) trekked on—
he had seen his mother drown before his eyes
and his little brother—just moments ago—stick to the concrete,
his flesh now crisp from the mid-day sun.

he moved on, digging deeper and deeper into himself
like he had dug into the soil before: he inched
and crawled, squirmed and wiggled, moving toward
that lush green grass on the other side.

but the sun was too much. he could feel the moisture
seeping from his body, each squirm becoming harder
as his rough underbelly stuck to the sidewalk:
he was trapped.

he lay there, thinking of the floods that drove him
to this demise; his brothers and sisters behind him,
all gone. he—the last hope of the inchers—, now helpless,
stops his moving, stops his thinking, stops his dreaming.

he shrivels. he sees feet coming out to enjoy
the newfound sun: as he curls up from the heat
he wishes only that one of them would tread on him
to take him to that little patch of dirt

in the sky.

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