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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

Jeremy Paden

how to recognize god’s chosen, xxxii.

an apocryphal sermon in five-points

–after Juan Felipe Herrera



  1. it’s easy, zhe said, walk up to the gates of the city of gratitude. walk in & through & you will have arrived.
  2. but zhe added, there is no map. no one to say: climb through fields of feathery red quinoa planted beside stone corrals, go up & over the side of the extinct volcano where pine & palm grow side by side & there in the old lakebed of the caldera the city you seek.
  3. some have breathed their way into stillness & arrived. some have driven their cars at break-neck speeds & crashed through the granite walls of the city & found themselves weepy with gratitude. some were born when the moon of thankfulness shone on the night-blooming cactus & have only ever known the joy of thank you. some were set apart for suffering.
  4. & when the gathered replied: zhe, this teaching is hard, zhe answered: how you get there is how you get there. there will be days & months, years even, where you’ll wander & the swamps that make the anaconda happy will be to you a hell. there will be those who try to sell you secret maps & potions mixed from roots & seeds no chemist has ever known. you’ll grow short of breath & sore.
  5. to which zhe added: you cannot study your way to gratitude. the guanaco that has escaped the puma & the puma that feasts on the huemul & the condor that tends to the remains, are all residents & neighbors.
  6. you were told, zhe concluded, this was a five point sermon, but five, six, the grateful don’t care, the grateful have arrived.

how to recognize god’s chosen, xxxiii.

zhe will see the bird in the sanctuary

that flew in through the window & died

beside the altar

broken from hunger & thirst

& will believe it a sacrifice & also

the snakes trampled by trucks on the road


zhe will smell the smoke of a million acres

burned & call it a holocaust pleasing & meet

before god


zhe will see the landfills

the dumpsters overflowing with discard

streets abandoned to decay


zhe will wade through the offal & refuse

collected in ponds beside the slaughter fields


& fall prostrate

fall prostrate & say:

this is a site holy & sanctified

for zhe is counted among god’s chosen

& to the pure all things are pure

how to recognize god’s chosen, xxxiv.

a brief sermon on the nature of things



the world is a house on fire

zhe said


& when zhe said house, zhe meant

cathedral, mosque, temple in the heart

of the city, gone up in flames, gone

down to ash


the world is a mosque on fire


& when zhe said world, zhe meant

body & when zhe said fire

zhe meant st mary baptist, meant 16th street

meant some row house on osage avenue


the world is a body on fire

zhe said


& when zhe said body, zhe meant

a gothic cathedral in the heart

of mosul, a temple on osage avenue

a house in the middle of jerusalem

a living church in a car on a street

in texas or michigan or georgia

a row house full of dancers

at the corner of south orange & esther


& when zhe said fire, zhe meant

arsonist, police, drones

meant a man with a gun


the world is a house & it’s on fire

& when zhe said house, zhe meant body

& when zhe said body, zhe meant world

& when zhe said world, zhe meant holocaust


the world is a fire that smolders on the edge of town

fire is a dancehouse, an everlasting furnace

it’s a body bright & fallen from heaven


the body is a house that is the world in flames


Jeremy Paden is an Affrilachian poet and professor of Latin American literature at Transylvania University in Lexington, Kentucky and is on faculty at Spalding University’s low-residency MFA. He has published translations of contemporary Argentine, Colombian, Chilean, Mexican, and Spanish poetry. He is also a poet who has published three chapbooks and two full-length collections. The latter two are: world as sacred burning heart (3: A Taos Press, 2021) and the bilingual Self-Portrait as an Iguana (Valparaíso USA, 2021). Self-Portrait, written originally in Spanish, was named co-winner of the inaugural Poeta en Nueva York Prize. His bilingual and illustrated children’s book Under the Ocelot Sun/Bajo el sol del ocelote (Shadelandhouse Modern Press, 2020), on the migrant caravan crisis, won a 2020 Campoy-Ada Prize awarded by the North American Academy of the Spanish Language for Children’s Literature in Spanish.

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