Please help the Black Earth Institute continue to make art and grow community so needed for our time. Donate now »

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

Elizabeth Austen

Rabia O’Loren


                                                   Cattle Point, San Juan Island


See? Even at slack water a churn

of contradictions. Stay back, instinct


instructs. But from here, more beauty than danger.

Water is its own gravity, light


itself a lure. Lean into the patterned

motion, ripples to the north, standing waves


to the south, the steady shove—

toward what? Nothing here


is expected to make sense—contrary

intentions, even the charts


predict this. An improvisation

under the surface, revealed


by the interplay of light—

water with texture. Whatever invites attention


prayer enough for now. You could wait your whole

life for sense to take shape. Does it matter


from here, whether those are seals or

bull kelp? Keep looking.




ferry from Orcas to Anacortes


Mist-colored knots of sea glass. A moss-clot

cadged from the trail’s edge. The truce


fished word by word from beneath the surface,

still unspoken. We carry what we found


what we made there. Three days you and I

let the currents direct our course, slept


on cool sand, let woodsmoke flavor us.

What’s left? Slow travel over cold water.


Toward home and days ordered by clocks

instead of tides. We watch through salt-scarred


windows, hoping the dark shapes will rise

beside us, will grace us. We know too well


what can’t be willed, only missed

if we look away too soon.




                        after Kunitz


Don’t offer opiates.

Lay me naked in the ocean’s

Hammock, still awake enough

to know myself her own.

Feet on her salt pillow,

hands at last with nothing

to grasp. For once I’ll

face unblunted

an event’s full force.

I don’t want to miss

the last important thing

I’ll ever do. Let those

friends who remain

wade out with me

beyond the breakers and push.

I want to ride the swell.


Author Biography:

Elizabeth Austen is the author of Every Dress a Decision (Blue Begonia Press, 2011) and two chapbooks, The Girl Who Goes Alone (Floating Bridge Press, 2010) and Where Currents Meet, part of the 2010 Toadlily Press quartet, Sightline. Her poems have appeared online (The Writer’s Almanac, Verse Daily), and in journals including Willow Springs, Bellingham Review, the Los Angeles Review, the Seattle Review, DMQ Review, and anthologies including Poets Against the War, Weathered Pages and In the Telling.

Credit: WHERE CURRENTS MEET was originally published in the Bellingham Review, 2009, reprinted from Every Dress a Decision (Blue Begonia Press, 2011).


©2024 Black Earth Institute. All rights reserved.  |  ISSN# 2327-784X  |  Site Admin