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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

Mary Newell

Crossing the Border for Choice

In 1960’s Berkeley, you could find out on Telegraph

where to go. From a Guanajuato summer class, my

Spanish got me through arrangements, but I couldn’t

catch their talk about the fetus’ age, which might have

mattered. I had broken with a boyfriend, coupled just

once with my guitar teacher. When I told my ex, excited –

it was a novelty, at 19 – he took out a calendar to count

himself out. That splashed me down. So I left it at that,

left having left him, alone. Left for the southern border.


I don’t recall panic crossing alone, looking for the clinic.

I don’t remember pain, or bad dreams after. Did I quit

guitar then, or just let it fade from my life over time?

I didn’t swear off sex, but a long time passed before…

I can’t remember feeling very much. Numb, perhaps.


I carried on as Avenue Cinema candy girl and student,

immersed in those volatile times, seeming unburdened.


Then followed a backseat ride across the Bay Bridge

on some friend’s Harley – to North Beach, I suppose.

It was windy, but not cold. San Francisco cool. But a

shiver ran through me as if each cell wall contracted.

I grasped gut-deep, like a knock-out, that someday

I’d have to die. Childhood’s golden circle splintered.

The Pollinators Cross

Say, Eve left first –
right away –
doesn’t like remonstrance.
Did she invite the serpent
to hiss chthonic wisdom, or
did he uncoil and slither along?
We have no record of that moment
of decision or avoidance.
Adam hung back, sulking.
Wasn’t all this meant to be his?
She went on,
planted a garden with a tree,
an apple tree – or was it an apricot?
Generous with the fruit,
Eve kept only a third.
Of the rest, she gave
half to Ishmael’s progeny
and half to those of Isaac.
They planted the pits.
Trees grew and thrived
but not together.
Sky-god worshipers in
warring assemblies, firm
in dissonant truths from
Abraham’s split heritage,
pilgrimage to the shared,
partitioned golden locus,
their prayers transected
by grudges and grief.
Scent of fruit trees in bloom
wafts across borders.
One day a honeybee
from some struggling hive
buzzed from one tree to another,
cross-pollinated across barbed wire –
and so, a tree grows
that doesn’t remember bloodshed.
Who will eat that fruit
and what knowledge imbibe?


Mary Newell authored the chapbooks Re-SURGE (Trainwreck Press 2021) and TILT/ HOVER/ VEER, poems in journals and anthologies, and essays including “When Poetry Rivers” (Interim journal 38.3). She is co-editor of Poetics for the More-than-Human-World: An Anthology of Poetry and Commentary. She teaches creative writing at the University of Connecticut, Stamford. Newell (MA Columbia, BA Berkeley) received a doctorate from Fordham University with a focus on environment and embodiment in contemporary women’s writing.

Other works by Mary Newell »

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