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

Section 1: Becomings

Aimee Nezhukumatahil

Self-Portrait as Scallop
Let me see your shadow feather across my hundred blue eyes. I probably won’t even notice the sea stars circling around me ready to nibble and foam for days. Carry me in the gobble of your beak. I’d rather be set like a jewel in your nest a sweet surprise after the sun dissolves into the Pacific like a gold ghost sugaring my coffee. By then I will have opened up to you. None of the eelgrass stories I clung to in my youth are better than this: I’m no longer silent. None of them told me if you were hungry enough— the small hinge of my umbo would creak and sigh.
Bengal Tiger
Each sun sinks itself
in my mouth.
Every thicket
has a secret and
every mighty beast,
a soft underside.
A chambered fist
calls to me from
the other side
of this planet.
There is no other
arrangement of fur
so electric, so charged
with blood and rain.
Each stripe becomes
a whole fable
with turned down
pages, one of those
stories that ends
with candy scattered,
cookie roof collapsed—
and a child stepping
out of a fire, shoes
still shiny and clean.
Meals of Grief & Happiness
I believe in the tears of an elephant.
How they stamp the ground
and forget they are in musth—
panting—and cinnamon shrubs
or piles of sugarcane can’t tempt
them to stop their cycle of grief.
I believe in the broken heart
of an elephant. When a companion
dies, I believe in the rocking back
and forth, the dry pebbly tongue.
I believe in wanting to wear only
dust, hear only dust, taste only dust.
I believe in wanting to touch nothing
and wanting nothing to touch you.
I believe in the tail wag of a dog.
The toothy grin of an apple-fed horse
the shine from the wet in their eyes
wild with joy. I like the movements
in a chimp’s fine fur as he swings
from branch to rubber tire and thumps
his companion on the head with a bright red ball.
I believe in the single sugar cube sparkling
on a small ceramic dish as we sit at a café—
me sipping a soda with a paper straw
you leaning in close to point to something
that neither of us have ever tried—but we will today.
The waiter will say Good, good choice, my favorite,
as he gathers up the vinyl menus and leaves us.
Aimee Nezhukumatahil is the author of three books of poetry and is poetry editor of Orion magazine. Honors include a Pushcart Prize and a fellowship from the NEA. Her collection of illustrated nature essays is forthcoming from Milkweed. She is the Grisham Writer-in-Residence at the University of Mississippi’s MFA program.



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