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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

Section One Earth

Karla Linn Merrifield

Happenstance: Run Off to Sea
On the day of the two
missing totem poles—
Strong Man & Sun—
Chief Shakes Island
hosted a second mystery:
an overabundance of Aurelia labiata
in the working-boat harbor.
We call them moon jellies;
a nuisance caught in our seines,
though their sting is slight,
poses little harm.
We are jealous of the fish eggs
they consume, desiring
future salmon for ourselves.
In the shadows of steel masts
& wood pilings, in the shadows
of the oval eyes
of cedar-carved Raven & Eagle,
we watch their uncommon billowing fecundity.
At slack tide the fringed translucent bells
sweep toward the edge where I walk.
The floating pale medusae spell
a question: Whence came our excess?
& they answer: It came from the land.
Your totemic Strong Man & Sun shall not
save my sea from your land.
We gorge on your excessive nutrient waste,
& we breed, we breed.


When the full moon rises over the hills
of Wrangell in midsummer, our quadrant tangles
in spruce trees & mist. In its beauty
is also its pain. It is at peak only for an instant
before it begins to wane & we harbor
beneath its filtered silver light
for only one night under the shredding sky.
A white-tailed doe swims across
the neck of Anita Bay to Etolin Island,
resolute against the tug of the ebbing tide,
glancing at the MV Tahoma,
its crew of seven, then quickly
eyes the land once more. We are reminded
of the animal need for wariness;
we are confident she will make shore.
We cast our shrimp pot in Santa Anna Inlet,
but it comes up empty, save for inedible
sculpin & juvie halibut. We wish the rafted
pair of purse seiners near us better luck because
we know that fish are fickle & feed where they must,
setting a course away from our great sea hunger.
Karla Linn Merrifield A seven-time Pushcart-Prize nominee and National Park Artist-in-Residence, Karla Linn Merrifield has had more than 300 poems appear in dozens of journals and anthologies. She has nine books to her credit, the newest of which are Lithic Scatter and Other Poems (Mercury Heartlink) and The Ice Decides: Poems of Antarctica (Finishing Line Press). Forthcoming from Salmon Poetry is Athabaskan Fractal and Other Poems of the Far North, and from FootHills Publishing, Attaining Canopy: Amazon Poems. Her Godwit: Poems of Canada (FootHills) received the 2009 Eiseman Award for Poetry and she recently received the Dr. Sherwin Howard Award for the best poetry published in Weber – The Contemporary West in 2012. She is assistant editor and poetry book reviewer for The Centrifugal Eye (, a member of the board of directors of TallGrass Writers Guild, and a member of Just Poets (Rochester, NY) and the New Mexico State Poetry Society. Visit her blog, Vagabond Poet, at
Photo Credit: Karla Linn Merrifield





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