a literary journal published by the Black Earth Institute dedicated to re-forging the links between art and spirit, earth and society
burying dead calves whose mothers suffered
from mastitis – quietly starving in their stalls
before anyone realized – one old man, widowed,
beat down, too much grief, too much work he can’t
stop doing – clogged seeder, bad brakes on the pick-up,
baler throwing out uneven rounds, wheat prices
in the toilet, drought, herbicide- resistant weeds,
lodged barley, winds smashing hay barns flat.
Church on Sunday, hymns he doesn’t sing – his wife had
the voice, soprano sweet and pure and clear
as spring’s first rain – he can still hear it, all these years
after the cancer took her. So he sits in the pew,
silent, listening – he doesn’t believe
in anything, anymore, but she won’t leave him –
She says some days the clouds are bellied with rain,
some days dawn clear as the first morning of the world.
The sweet grass grows green and greener in the field,
tall through the bones of deer, coyote, antelope,
over the wheel ruts, above long ago forgotten graves
of the dead. The past is the past.
Sermon over, he rises, nods to his neighbors,
makes his way outside. The sun’s left, taking
shadows with it – frost tonight, too early.
Back home, he checks his horses, drops feed
for the cows. Barn spider’s web torn and rippling
in cold wind, worn lace curtain, his lost cat a skeleton
somewhere, tangled in the rattle grass. Bones
are keys to something, but the lock’s rusted shut.
In the root cellar, peas float, soft green planets
in their canning jars, peaches crescent moons. He can’t
bring himself to eat them. Sleet clatters down,
shards of glass. Far above him he hears their voices,
wild geese flying home.
B.J. Buckley is a Wyoming/Montana poet and writer who has worked in Arts-in-Schools and Communities programs throughout the west and mid-west for over 40 years. She is currently writer-in-residence for Sanford Arts at Sanford Cancer Center, Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Her poems have appeared widely in small print and online journals, and she has received a number of national prizes and awards for her work. Her poetry books include Moonhorses and the Red Bull, with co-author Dawn Senior-Trask (Prong Horn Press 2005); a letterpress chapbook, Spaces Both Infinite and Eternal (Limberlost Press 2013); and Corvidae, Poems about Ravens, Crows, and Magpies (Lummox Press 2014). She lives in rural central Montana with her sweetheart, dogs, and cats.