a literary journal published by the Black Earth Institute dedicated to re-forging the links between art and spirit, earth and society
Necks up. Turn. Fan tail. Bow,
Turn again and open wings:
I think of courtly dancers, I think
of mummers, masters of t’ai chi,
ballerinas, shamans; step
and sarabande and promenade,
schottishe and reel and tarantella;
and I decide to join the dance.
I fancy celebrating spring on a greening
field with all these sandhill cranes,
forgetting myself, my human body,
beyond language, beyond thought,
bowing and bending, turning and opening
in warming air, in slanting sun–
but every time I move towards them,
the cranes move off, so that I am
always exactly the same distance
from them. They could fly away
in a rush of wings, abandoning me
to myself, but they do not.
They allow me just this close,
no closer, just this close. And that
becomes their gift to me: later
days and miles away—and later,
years and continents away–
I can still dance with them from
this distance that makes me human,
still hear them speak in that distinct
vocabulary of longing and grace,
connection and presence; their gift to me.
Saint Gobnait’s Deer
An angel told that sharp-featured
woman, Mo Gobnait, to find
nine white deer grazing together.
“That will be your place of resurrection,”
the angel said. Gobnait set forth
and soon found three deer, grazing
peaceably in Clondrohid. Gobnait
kept walking until she saw six deer
grazing together in Ballymakeera.
She kept walking.
And the deer
walked too, the three and the six
coming together at last to graze
at Ballyvourney, right beside
the river Sullane. There Gobnait
stopped. Did she feel the air
grow thin with presence? Did
she sing her homecoming song?
Did she fall to her knees and pray?
What would you do, if you knew
you stood in the place of your death.
Lesson of the Bees
The steady traffic in that corner
of the garden is so obvious now,
especially when the evening’s slant light
gilds the travelers swooping down
to that flat rock I know now rests
beneath the lilies and white phlox,
that gateway to the city of bees
with its room of secret paper
where the news is all of flowers
and the appetites of queens.
How many years of bee time
have passed since last week
when, blindly weeding, I came
too close to those city gates?
So fast. So fast. I did not think
“bee” or “sting” or “run”, so fast
did she strike, so fast did I run.
In beeland’s history of struggle
surely that battle is remembered.
And what of that small warrior
who gave her life to drive me off?
Heroic ballads in bee measure
are surely sung when the bards
relate the history of the tribe.
Do they mention, I wonder, that
her venom now runs in my blood.
Patricia Monaghan was a co-founder of the Black Earth Institute. Seeing the problems and divisions in the country and world, she organized artists in response to address the areas of spirit, earth, and social justice. Twelve years later BEI has become an established presence for artists and scholars. Patricia was a Pushcart Prize winning poet with many collections of her own and edited works. She was a scholar and advocate of woman’s spirituality with books like the Encyclopedia of Goddesses and Heroines that have become classics in the field. Works of poetry included Sanctuary, Homefront, Seasons of the Witch, and Winterburning. Monaghan was a social activist and a Quaker She lived in Black Earth, Wisconsin, on land called Brigit Rest in the Driftless Area with her husband and BEI co-founder Michael McDermott. Patricia died at Brigit Rest on November 11, 2012. BEI is a testament to her work and values.