dirt on my hands

it rains each day: soft clouds release
their precious cumulations to earth
so the sun can then scoop up each



and return it to the sky’s empty pockets.
below, fir giants whisper their secrets
to young roots and

mycelium lives


in vast blankets of electricity beneath my feet.
upon the dirt, spiders helter skelter as
my hand tucks strange seedlings into

shovel gashes.


my coniferous lungs love the air here:
i sometimes stand still

to breathe


atop the discarded bodies of sitka
spruce trees. around me, i see wasted old growth
piled haphazardly.

they once breathed here, too:


taught their babies to grow,
drank rain, danced naked
in storms, felt sun

on their outstretched arms.


Lucie von Schilling is an MA student currently writing about bodies for her poetry thesis.

Questions and Answers

Is there a specific moment that inspired you to pursue poetry?

I do not have a particular moment that inspired me to pursue poetry. Instead, many decisions led me to poetry. I began university pursuing a degree in bio-chem, then switched to screenwriting, and finally, found poetry. Since then, writing poetry has become compulsive. I love it.

How/where do you find inspiration today?

Through writing poetry, I am always attempting to make sense of my body in relation to the physical world. Much of what I write about relates to bodies: ownership of; violence to; the process of aging; illness; postures; sensations; and anatomy of. I think that attempting to make sense of living within a body is a life-long project. For me, figurative language is my sharpest tool.

What inspired you or motivated you to write this poem?

I have been a tree planter for almost a decade. However, I rarely write about tree planting. This past semester, I took a seminar with Dr. Warren Cariou titled “Indigenous Energy Studies.” For one of our assignments, Dr. Cariou had us write an “energy story”: a short creative writing piece that explored the presence of energy within our lives. I decided to finally write about tree planting for my “energy story.” “dirt on my hands” is part of a three poem series about my experience as a tree planter, with a specific focus on energy. To me, energy is present while tree planting in a number of ways: the sun, which is particularly vengeful and hot on a nearly empty cut block; the act of logging, which begets reforestation, as part of energy extraction; the natural living energy of forest systems, from mycelium to a tree’s crown; and finally, each tree planter’s energy consumption and kinetics. From eating five thousand calories to cracking open the ground two thousand times every day, a lot of energy is required to do the job. Forestry, like other extraction industries, is a giant energy sucking machine. In this way, human bodies and tree bodies become the extremities of this machine. The small degree of separation between types of bodies in this machine is what inspired me to write “dirt on my hands.”

What poetic techniques did you use in this poem? How much attention do you pay to form and metre?

“dirt on my hands” contains no metre. However, I do use different poetic techniques. I love enjambment and use this technique regularly to add emphasis. As well, I like my poems to have closure. If closure cannot be satisfactorily achieved through content, I will use form. In “dirt on my hands,” most stanzas are four lines long with the final line indented for emphasis. The fourth stanza, however, is only three lines long. This is the poem’s volta: here, the relationship between the speaker’s body and the spruce tree bodies becomes murky. Following the fourth stanza, the fifth and sixth return to being four lines long. This return to the original pattern signals closure, even if the final line is somewhat abrupt.

This poem “dirt on my hands” originally appeared in Poetics and Extraction 2 Spec. issue of Canadian Literature 253 (2023): 154.

Please note that works on the Canadian Literature website may not be the final versions as they appear in the journal, as additional editing may take place between the web and print versions. If you are quoting reviews, articles, and/or poems from the Canadian Literature website, please indicate the date of access.