a literary journal published by the Black Earth Institute dedicated to re-forging the links between art and spirit, earth and society

Section One Earth
Alaska Range
Alaska Range

Getting to Black Earth

Poem by Patricia Monaghan

Start with ocean. A shallow sea, populous
with plankton, and giant fish that feed on it.
Let storms and sunlight flash across the sea.
As bodies die, let them drift down to mud.

Then let there be light. And fire. And heaving:
rock on rock. Let the sea sink. Let it
pour away into other, younger seas.
Let the land rest, damp, exhausted, rich.

Now, let ice appear from north and east
and west. Let it move south to form an isle
of green in a sea of snow. Let this happen over
and over and over for half a million years.

Let low pink quartzite hills hold back the ice.
Let lakes appear beyond, inland seas
with coastlines of blue snow. Let eagles float
above the blue and icy waves, fishing.

Now, catastrophe: Let water break
through ice, drowning sleeping bears still
in their caves, and wolves, and fleeing deer, and mice.
Let a great pathway open on the land

marking the pathway of the flood. Let creeks
and rivers deepen crevices in rock,
and gullies form and soften under wind.
Let oaks take root, and shagbark hickory,

and elderberry, yarrow, bee balm, clover,
big and little bluestem, rattlesnake master,
downy gentian, boneset, dogbane, ragweed,
and thickets of sumac, blackberry, blackcap, rose.

Let black soil deepen over limestone seabed
except where it erupts on crowns of hills.
Then, not long ago, let people come.

Start with ocean. End with Black Earth
 

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