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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

Melissa Atkinson Mercer

Leviathan speaks of creation

I birthed a nest of mice
into the kitchen’s wall: an orchard womb of prayer.

But they were loud, they deafened
my orchid-heart, bone of the only bone, the first hard fortune:

how with a bread knife I opened their sugared skulls. My children will die
and my children’s children, starved for warning,

knowing more than they’ll say. Here I am, the whole difference
between an earth and a god,

between a rabbit and the white church of its jaw.

Leviathan speaks of history

I’m a worry doll, a wish, a museum of hatchets:

the circus of the easy answer. I’m the cow chased from the road
by a boy in an unwashed robe,

the same boy who tied back my hair with daises, who prayed to my dark bones

as they coffined in the moon of our harvest: the boy
who sits with us now in the apple grove

braiding long strands of bread. Don’t worry, love, it’s only a feast

for the witches, the saints we have burned
and burned again.

Leviathan speaks of worship

My own mother gave me the year of my journey,
the fish-girl in my shattered lung.

Does it start there: my passion for the project of my life:

where every place I left became a sea, a flood village,
a warning light in the hill of wolves:

the dry rotted caves of their teeth where the people waited

for my death, where they stretched snake skins into drums,
where they sang for me: my first and only praise.

Melissa Atkinson Mercer is the author of the chapbooks Storm Was Her Voice (dancing girl press, 2016) and After the Miracle Season (forthcoming, ELJ Publications, 2017). Her work has also appeared or is forthcoming in Bone Bouquet, Rust+Moth, A Bad Penny Review, and others. She has an MFA from West Virginia University and currently lives deep in the North Carolina mountains, between a trout stream and a cemetery.


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