The Woman Who Eats Soil

From The Green Issue

Artwork by Phoebe Kahlo

What can the unfortunate insect do
if it is found wanting in weight?
A pill-bug rolls into a bead of silent news.
The damselfly can bend a petal

back without leaving her mark. Trickster.
There is a woman named Hao Fenglas
who cupped soil to her lips
for over seventy years. In the hem

of her blouse, in the roll of her pant leg,
she brings back a crumble of earth.
Knives stripe a feathered neck
in the kitchen for a thin broth so no one

hears her first chew. Chow. Chaw. Two
schoolboys tie a kite to their wrists
as they walk to school. Hao eats
in the window and waves. Tonight,

Father leaves for business and no one—
not even the cabbage—will give her an eye.
The crickets caged in dainty silk lanterns
stop their song and listen for the chew.

They have an idea on how to grow bigger, too big
for this purse. But it is forgotten with each bite.