you will dig me from the earth with your bare hands, in order to resurrect me

you will dig me from the earth with your bare hands, in order to resurrect me

November 08, 2018 4 Comments

Paula Harris's poem "you will dig me from the earth with your bare hands, in order to resurrect me" is the winning poem from our 2018 Janet B. McCabe Poetry Prize and was selected by final judge Ilya Kaminsky. It appears in Issue No. 49: Mattering.


you will dig me from the earth with your bare hands, in order to resurrect me

this will be challenging, given that I intend to be cremated,
the cremains then scattered along the ridge of the Tararuas

but still, you will sift through the dirt, the ferns,
the decomposing leaves, the insects;
you will make sacrifices of wheat and goats to the Anemoi,
so that they will agree to use the winds
to help you draw my scattered self to one place

you will worship orishas and physics, you will learn to bend time,
you will make offerings to gods and spirits
that you previously didn’t even know existed

you will gather the first tears of conjoined twins,
the last howl of a dying white wolf,
the moments between thunder and lightning,
the fourth tail of an albino axolotl,
a lamb’s happiest jump,
a metric cup of warmth, created by sunlight hitting the point of Cleopatra’s Needle,
the moment a seed breaks through the surface and becomes a seedling,
five kisses from a Buddhist monk who lives in a cave high above the Matsang River,
927 grams of steel, captured from the dust of knives as they are sharpened,
eleven memories of my smile

you will cast spells,
you will create a sacred circle, a sacred triangle,
a sacred pentagram, a sacred parallelogram

you will wipe the dirt, the decomposing leaves, the insects
from my re-forming body

you will hold my almost-formed left hand and beg me to return,
you will sing me lullabies,
you will tell me how you’ve missed me, how this was all a mistake

with infinite gentleness you will wipe away the dirt water tears
that slip from my still-closed eyes

and all of this will be too late


PAULA HARRIS lives in New Zealand, where she writes poems and sleeps in a lot, because that’s what depression makes you do. She won the 2017 Lilian Ida Smith Award and will be a writing resident at Vermont Studio Center in late 2018. Her poetry has been published in various New Zealand and Australian journals, including Poetry NZ Yearbook, Snorkel, Takahē, The Spinoff, Landfall, and Broadsheet. She is extremely fond of dark chocolate, shoes, and hoarding fabric.

Read the other poems, stories, and art from Ruminate's Issue 49: Mattering.  

Photo by Daniel Tafjord on Unsplash

4 Responses

Jenna S
Jenna S

November 20, 2018

This is so beautiful.

Wendy Thornton
Wendy Thornton

November 08, 2018

Beautiful poem. Thank you!

henry 7. reneau, jr.
henry 7. reneau, jr.

November 08, 2018


what a truly awesome poem!

i’ve been trying to get a poem published in ruminate,which is itself an awesome lit mag, for ages, and have failed repeatedly.

your poem has set a high standard, and there’s nothing i like more than a creative challenge. it’s like a green light in a traffic jam gridlocked in 100 degree doldrums with your air conditioner broken.

after reading, and totally enjoying your poem, my writing can only get better, because every example of greatness inspires greatness in others.

thank you paula.

live long and prosper,
henry 7. reneau, jr.

Tonia Colleen Martin
Tonia Colleen Martin

November 08, 2018

this is an astonishing muse…..I looked up the Tararuas mountains…gorgeous…but even more so the weighty heart carried by these words….(I have an MFA from VCFA)…I trust you will have a fruitful experience there

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