It covers everything, fine powder,
the earth’s gold breath falling softly
on the dark wood dresser, blue ceramic bowls,
picture frames on the wall. It wafts up
from canyons, carried on the wind,
on the wings of birds, in the rough fur of animals
as they rise from the ground. Sometimes it’s copper,
sometimes dark as ink. In great storms,
it even crosses the sea. Once,
when my grandmother was a girl,
a strong gale lifted red dust from Africa
and took it thousands of miles away
to the Caribbean where people swept it
from their doorsteps, kept it in small jars,
reminder of that other home.
Gandhi said, “The seeker after truth
should be humbler than the dust.”
Wherever we go, it follows.
I take a damp cloth, swipe the windowsills,
the lamp’s taut shade, run a finger
over the dining room table.
And still, it returns, settling in the gaps
between floorboards, gilding the edges
of unread books. What could be more loyal,
more lonely, and unsung?

From Bonfire Opera (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2020). Posted by kind permission of the poet.

Danusha Laméris

Danusha Laméris

About the author

Danusha Laméris is a poet, teacher, and essayist. She is the author of The Moons of August, which was chosen by Naomi Shihab Nye as the winner of the Autumn House Press poetry prize and was a finalist for the Milt Kessler Book Award, and Bonfire Opera, a finalist for the Paterson Poetry Prize, and winner of the Northern California Book Award in Poetry. The 2020 recipient of the Lucille Clifton Legacy Award, she is a Poet Laureate emeritus of Santa Cruz County, California, and co-leads the Poetry of Resilience webinars and the HearthFire Writing Community with James Crews. She is on the faculty of Pacific University's low-residency MFA program.