Please help the Black Earth Institute continue to make art and grow community so needed for our time. Donate now »

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

Linda Hogan

Season of the Butterflies

The world around me is wildflower teeming,
small yellow, round orange, petal by petal, the lavender
ones and the sun coming from earth,
even the webs of finery shining in light,
and it takes a sheer brief atmosphere
flying just inches above this beloved earth
the many thousand wings, all colors, truly the Cibola
other men saw, the entire sky moved in those days
shining like valuable elements to their mineral longing.
Once they were chrysalis, once worm, many legs,
each carrying their part of the god
of butterflies, chrysalis opened at the back
or without teeth ate their way through the silken shroud of life
or made such long other journeys
to fly above this illumined world with such beauty.
Even if I could live that way one day
If only, in the illuminated world of another code,
step through out of my body of aging silk flesh
open out of the pain clothing
where I live, mortally again,
immortally beautiful,
elderly invisible woman with this soul of light.
even then I would never be so rich, so perfect
as the winged lives
flower to flower
pollen to pollen
immortal to the spirit
of a mortal memory that can’t relinquish
its hold on this life stem.
Mercy, the Word
How I miss the animals of the ocean,
in the depths that can’t be measured
of my heart,
deeper than water, or a universe of dark matter.
I want mercy in this world
and I miss the trees
that are daily falling to the saw,
birds here too early to survive,
but not the lies of our time.
There is something wrong with me
because seeing the suffering
makes me weep and then I write these words.
What I really wish to write is a love poem
to ocean, tree, bird, a lover,
not to condemn soldiers
who follow orders
sworn to a nation
instead of the demands of compassion.
You know, I tell people,
earth has the grace
to create caves of shining crystal
and shifting dunes, mountains
with waters falling from them.
Water has the blessing of skin
left always unbroken, never scarred.
I need mercy
to make life that easy in this world.
If not that, I need to harden my edges
but mercy is a word
that leaves me open instead.
Linda Hogan (Chickasaw) is an internationally recognized public speaker and author of
poetry, fiction, and essays. Her newest book INDIOS,is a finalist now for the 2012
Oklahoma Book Awards. Recent books are Rounding the Human Corners (Coffee
House Press, April 2008, Pulitzer nominee) and People of the Whale (Novel, Norton,
August 2008, also Pulitzer finalist). Her other books include novels Mean Spirit, a
winner of the Oklahoma Book Award, the Mountains and Plains Book Award, and a
finalist for the Pulitzer Prize; Solar Storms, a finalist for the International Impact Award,
and Power, also a finalist for the International Impact Award in Ireland. Next year her
new book, 2014, Dark. Sweet. New and Collected Poetry will be published. Other
poetry has received an American Book Award and a prestigious Lannan Foundation
Fellowship. Awards include a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, a
Guggenheim Fellowship and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Native Writers
Circle of the Americas. Her nonfiction includes Dwellings, A Spiritual History of the
; and The Woman Who Watches Over the World: A Native Memoir. She has,
with Brenda Peterson, written Sightings, The Mysterious Journey of the Gray Whale
for National Geographic Books, and together edited several anthologies, Intimate
Nature: Women and Animals
. She wrote the script, Everything Has a Spirit, a PBS
documentary on American Indian Religious Freedom. Hogan was inducted into the
Chickasaw Hall of Fame in 2007.
Hogan was only the second minority woman full professor at the University of
Colorado in Creative Writing and Native American Studies. Her main interests are in
environmental studies, indigenous spiritual traditions, and culture. She is on the Board of
Advisors for Orion Magazine, The Indigenous Education Institute, and the Native
Science Academy. Hogan has recently been the Writer in Residence for The Chickasaw
She is working on a chapter on Traditional Ecosystem Knowledge for a book on
Sustainability and Indigenous Knowledge for Cambridge University Press.
Hogan is currently finishing a book on Chickasaw pre-removal history, culture, and
traditions specializing in ecosystem, culture, and language, and is working on a new
novel. For more information visit





©2024 Black Earth Institute. All rights reserved.  |  ISSN# 2327-784X  |  Site Admin