The White Shoe Irregular:
It was fun while it lasted.

The Ground Eaters

Dennis Collins Johnson

I just read about
how some slaves in
early America
would eat earth,
ordinary earth,
in order to kill
themselves, rather
than live as
slaves, gradually,
over months, wasting
away to decrepitude
and dizzying decay.
They were called
Ground Eaters, and
had not the finesse
of the tongue-swallowers
to suffocate themselves,
nor the glory of the
conflagration flagrants
to die by fire while
making not a sound,
nor the efficiency of
a true poison. Only
ordinary earth. Mother
earth. Only swallow her
day after day,
with a little water,
and my daughter's
tearful attention
to how thin I've
become, and
how ashen.