A poem by Oni Buchanan

The Occupation


You see, it really is a lot of work
because there is a lot of mud, you see,

especially when it rains so much
like it has and makes mud

upon mud, mud all the way
down, and then it really becomes

quite the occupation to
move all that mud

from one side to the other,
to push all that mud back and forth, to sort

one mud from another mud.
I was an industrious pig.

In my pen I pushed a ball of mud
from one end to the other—

There is so much mud to distribute
and so much works against my

perfect placement of mud,
against all my efforts.  It rains and

my piles of mud are destroyed, are rendered
sloppy, festering pools

where loathsome mosquitoes breed.  At least
I can wallow, but to make progress,

to make any progress at all,
one needs a certain

substance to the mud, a certain texture, a
structural integrity

to the mud to build on it,
to build mud upon mud—

I suppose I am all design, all strategy and design.
All lofty, ephemeral dreaming,

enchantment and charm, unlikeliness—
The sun as a kiln could work for me

if the sun worked at all.
There is no moderation on this earth.

Or maybe that’s just it.
Maybe there is only moderation.


Oni Buchanan is the author of Spring, selected by Mark Doty for the 2007 National Poetry Series, and published by the University of Illinois Press in September 2008. Her first poetry book, What Animal, was published in 2003 by the University of Georgia Press. She is also a concert pianist, has released three solo piano CDs, and actively performs across the U.S. and abroad. She lives in Boston with her husband, the poet Jon Woodward.