Asthma and allergic diseases increased after children moved from free range outdoor activities to sanitized indoor playrooms and virtual playgrounds. According to the “hygiene hypothesis,” early exposure to germs and allergens is required to develop a robust immune system. As a “Mr. Mom” who prefers bike pedaling to pushing a vacuum cleaner, I played my part in boosting my budding daughter’s immune system. This little poem, written some years ago in response to Fry’s challenge (see below), is dedicated to Sarah, my now well-showered teen daughter. A request that she pose for a portrait in a mud hole was nixed in favor of a baby photo. 

Exercise 8: Two stanzas of verse running 3,6,1,4,8,4,1,6,3: subject Hygiene. (The Ode Less Traveled, Stephen Fry):




Germ theory
Is not my daughter’s drift.
Is not spurned
But embraced, mouthed, eaten.
From a primeval source –
No sniffles

She wears soil
Skin close, fingernail deep;
Intimate friend.
Unbathed, unwiped, she is
Coated sweet with
Earth spritzed in sunshine –
Her perfume


Jim Clark, a retired Air Force nurse living with his wife and daughter in Asheville, North Carolina, was raised in Chattanooga, Tennessee. When he’s not holding down the home front, Jim is likely to be running or biking the surrounding trails and back roads.  He enjoys capturing bytes of flora and fauna with a camera sensor and occasionally sentences a few bits to prose or poem.



  1. Your daughter’s eyes are gorgeous!

    Thank you for the reminder of the importance of dirt!

    1. Thanks Rebecca – my wife’s X chromosome gets the credit for those eyes, while I take most of the credit for the acquired immunity.

  2. Wonderful portrait! And the picture’s pretty good too 🙂

    1. Thanks Jud. I offered to pay her for the mud hole photo to no avail.

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