It is slow work, applying mud to the straw.
Not so much because you sift the dirt first
through a screen. Not because of the desert’s heat.

Not the mixing of the mud with diverted river water,
though this is best done by hand—squeezing the lumps
and working the earthen chunks with your fingers.

Not because the soundtrack is Vivaldi. Not because
you don’t know what to do, but because it feels so good
to move your muddy palms over the bales, the knobs

of straw protruding only so long before they relax
into the notion of solid wall. It breathes, Danny says,
as we press our hands into the structure’s thick sides.

He explains how whatever moisture comes in can come out.
And I think of the ways we try to waterproof our lives.
How thin, how desperate the veneers we use to protect ourselves.

But cracks come on sooner than we’d guess they might.
And then the mess of trying to fix the leaks.
I make large mud swirls, small mud swirls, let my fingers

rake eight long snakes into the damp brown clay.
Mud in my hair. Mud in my elbows. Mud on my
calves, between my toes. I go slow. Not because

it takes great concentration to slather the mud
on the wall, but because I am humming into it prayers
and remembrances, hoping that the mud will stick to me,

will help me breathe—and joy leaks in.
I swirl and press, massage and stroke. And joy
seeps out.


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