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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

Petra Kuppers

Maine Judgement

The seven-foot-long lobster at the bottom of Mill Cove gets restless at night when the moon stands on its sickle bottom (cuts slightly into sheepish clouds). Drops of silver blood rain onto racoons’ scissors. A wolf’s fang glistens as the red claw rears up out of the water. Ocean orchid spreads out finger waves. And right on cue, they swoop on down, along moon beam’s broad elevator: two, no three, no five tiny spaceships, aluminum-colored, purple dot lights twinkle. The lobster’s beady eye pearls wallow, dance on stalks with metal swallow’s ballet. Both claws now rise in unison. Salt water cascades ion-rich into the night. The carapace opens, chest plates yaw wide. Blue lasers find their home, pulse, thicken, turquoise steam parts and reveals the new alien tattoo. This is your mission, ancient one: till the day of radiation’s ball, you crab the ocean’s bottom, sift, sound, and call us when you need the birds to fly you to a new round hall.

Ghost Bridge of Ford Lake

“No one has driven over the bridge in years, but it is still there on the flats. … There, on the bottom of Ford Lake, is where it rests today.” James Mann, local historian, Ypsilanti, 2008

At night, the Ford Lake Dam still hums.

Old Hydro buzzes in his sleep, jumps shivers down deformed bullhead catfish spines.

Deep beneath, the Sauk Indian trail remembers soles that anchored river to the land – tramp, climb, traverse – footprints chime from fort to village, trade post, friend.

Cyanobacteria now whisper the messages in blue-green sibilants: spill, spill, this made thing, earth dam, iron suspension, tremble on the land. We will we will we will run away and rush and cleanse and sweep away sandstone, metal shavings, Fordite scraps of car color lacquered in layers, this palimpsest of racy longings, ram shiny fins in baby blue and rose that parade on Sunday down Depot Town.

The factory presses rectangles onto the rusty earth.

Ant workers crawl into chocolate cake segments layered next to the lake.

Air intake valves pierce the rain sky.

Tonight, close by, the Ypsilanti Ford Motor Plant lassoes a sinus wave of power: kick the starters, traverse voltage regulators, jump ignition coils.

All tune — fish, soil, iron, tiny algae — till brake cylinders caress and channel all energy to the tomb.


Petra Kuppers (she/her) is a disability culture activist, a writer, and a community performance artist. Petra grounds herself in disability culture methods, and uses ecosomatics, performance, and speculative writing to engage audiences toward more socially just and enjoyable futures. Her third poetry collection, Gut Botany, was named one of the top ten US poetry books of 2020 by the New York Public Library, and won the 2021/22 Creative Book Award by the Association for the Study of Literature and the Environment. Petra is Artistic Director of The Olimpias, an international disability culture collective, and she co-creates Turtle Disco, a somatic writing studio. She is the Anita Gonzalez Collegiate Professor of Performance Studies and Disability Culture at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. She is an Emeritus Fellow of the Black Earth Institute.

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