The dverse prompt is ‘soil’ in all its many aspects and senses. I think I’m going to change this free verse to a haibun.

cottage garden

Digging, here, is wrestling with the arms of history, the roots put down and withered, rolled up and moved on. Trowel scrapes against the rocks and pebbles of other lives, and the old bones of beloved pets. Spikes of rust, chink and clink, hinges from some long-rotted door, nails massive as construction bolts, the pins of decay.

Digging in bulbs and seeds, re-potting, planting, sifting through the layers of dust and waste, we play at creation in our city gardens full of death. Memories crowd of so many ephemeral hands, digging, trowelling through the nuts and bolts, the stones and broken glass of forgotten projects.

Digging. We hope and dream.

And always, when the spring rains come, the dust flourishes.


Handfuls of sharp noise,

brittle bottle tops rusting,

beneath, seeds struggle.



Published by

Jane Dougherty

I used to do lots of things I didn't much enjoy. Now I am officially a writer. It's what I always wanted to be.

46 thoughts on “Digging”

  1. I love the nuts and bolts and bones of old pets–so visceral. 🙂 But still digging and dreaming.
    We’re not in the city, but we’ve found some of the same here, too.

    1. There must have been dozens of cats and dogs buried in our little bit over the decades, all dark brown like the bones in a museum. And bottle and stoppers that haven’t been made since the 1950s. Interesting, if annoying when you can’t dig a hole deep enough to plant a rose tree for all the rubble from an old workshop…

    1. Thanks Beverly 🙂 It’s just a question of finding what plants will tolerate the nasty stuff that lurks deep down, and can cohabit with the old paint, acids, and household junk.

    1. Thank you! It’s like an archaeological dig. The bottle tops from the 1950s, brown dog and cat bones, hinges and bits of iron fittings from the 1900s, all fitted into somebody’s life.

  2. It us the time of the season – digging, seeding and planting for the weeks to come. Hopefully it is a bountiful harvest though seeds struggle.

  3. This is soo incredibly beautiful, Jane!❤️Especially love; “Digging. We hope and dream. And always, when the spring rains come, the dust flourishes.”❤️

  4. Your poem reminds of my daughter’s garden at her old basement flat in Clapham. It took so many digs to get rid of all the old rubbish but she persevered and, before she moved, harvested veg and salad for some lovely meals. Thanks for the memories!

    1. Everybody who had a bit of garden, except for the rich, built sheds on it to use as workshops, kept chickens and rabbits, and that was about it. We’re still (after ten years) finding huge lumps of rusted iron and broken glass from the workshop, and the number of animal bones! It’s a pets’ cemetery!

  5. Sounds more like an archeological tell than a garden…fascinating! Love this: “And always, when the spring rains come, the dust flourishes.” Yes!

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