Worm Medicine

earthworm, indivisible
one, you feed on smaller things

what is dead, and what is rotting
food of worms, no glory until
above you, sky riots
with beauty that feeds on
your tiny work

was it you? st. francis
held in his hand, praying
make me a channel of Your peace

here, this reeking moment, break it
down, glean the good
leave food for flowers

hone yourself, tighter
than to the bone, carve
down to the worm

keep moving, small
relentless, whole
body committed

what is dead? what is rotting?
you move through it, as you
pass it through
you, this world’s refuse

glean the good
leave food for flowers.


In Fifth World Drum (Frontenac House, 2009) this is the second-last poem, and dedicated to Maria Formolo. Maria was a creative force in Edmonton arts for years, both as a dancer and as a teacher. In 1998, when I was starting an Aboriginal (the word in vogue then) theatre company, one of the first things I did for my new young troupe was to contract a series of movement workshops with Maria.

Occasionally, I idly wonder what they took out of those weeks of exploring embodiment. I’m glad that I was once able to set up that learning experience, and pay some young people to engage in it, whatever they made of it then, and whatever echoes resonate in their lives now, twenty years later.

As for me, this post renews my gratitude to Maria for teaching so much, so well.


Here’s the book version.

indivisible one
feeds on the smallest of things
what is dead what is rotting
what is unholy and shunned
is the food of worms
no glory here and little choice

you take what is given to you
and you break it down
find even the single molecule that is good
and make fertilizer of what you don’t
absolutely need to stay alive
to the worm
tighter than to the bone
you are honed down
and above you
the whole sky and world are filled
with the beauty that feeds on
your tiny work

you move in small relentless steps
your whole body committed
whatever shit they dump you in
you move through it
you pass it through you
glean the good
leave food for flowers

like Francis of Assisi
you commit your one prayer —
oh, make me a channel of Your peace.



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