Thank you for these tiny particles of ocean salt, pearl-necklace viruses, winged protozoans: for the infinite, intricate shapes of submicroscopic living things. For algae spores and fungus spores, bonded by vital mutual genetic cooperation, spreading their inseparable lives from equator to pole. My hand, my arm, make sweeping circles. Dust climbs the ladder of light. For this infernal, endless chore, for these eternal seeds of rain: Thank you. For dust.
Nancy Morris, widow, ca. 1838
When did my knees learn how to forecast rain, and my hairbrush start yielding silver curls? Of late, a short walk makes me short of breath, and every day begins and ends with pain. Just yesterday I was raising my girls; now I’m alone, and making friends with death. So let the railroad stop at my back door for a hot meal. What do I have to lose? The Lord has counted the hairs on my head and made a little space under my floor. All I ask of life is to be of use. There’ll be time to be careful when I’m dead. Birth is a one-way ticket to the grave: I’ve learned that much slowly, over the years, watching my body age. Time is a thief, and what we give away is all we can save. So bring on the runaways! I know no fear. Let life have meaning, if it must be brief.
The Underground Railroad, a secret network of routes leading from the South to freedom in Canada, operated from ca. 1801 to 1865. People who risked their lives to help slaves escape on this route were called “conductors.”