What’s Underneath – by Jane Sasser

By the time backhoe bites
pavement, he is there:
a skinny kid, maybe nine
years old, his bike propped
against utility pole, and
he is standing in the street,
watching. From my window
I see the twitch of his shoulder
blades, his worn white sneakers
edging inches toward the hole, and
I see how the workers let him
join their circle, remembering,
perhaps, how it was to be a boy,
endless lessons of summer
mornings, whole world waiting
outside the door. All morning
he stands witness, taut as wire,
learning what we’d all like to know:
what lies under the surface
of things, that thinnest veneer
over which our lives drive.

Jane Sasser was born and raised on a farm in Fairview, NC. She grew up in a family of storytellers and began writing her own stories at the age of six. Her poetry has appeared in JAMA, North American Review, The Sun, and other publications. The author of two poetry chapbooks, Recollecting the Snow (2008) and Itinerant (2009), she retired in 2018 from teaching high school English and creative writing. She lives in Oak Ridge, TN, with her husband and retired greyhounds.

Art: Guatemala City Sinkhole, acrylic, pastel, and marker on 36×24 inch canvas (cropped)
Artist Statement: Okay, so I guess this pairing is a bit literal, but I enjoy their contrast. In Sasser’s poem, humans bite into the Earth, peeking beneath the surface to remark at our ecosystem’s fragility from a place of safety. In the painting, Earth bites back.