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

Twila Newey

How to live

with less certainty is something
I never prepared to lose

most of my life mangos & limes
arrived bright from Mexico

out of season—rot on counter—
we’re trying not to waste now

everything grown precious
each morning now, I notice

the sky a little different
yesterday & tomorrow’s grey

blind white, rain intermittent
blue last evening, I knelt

beneath our Japanese maple
its ten thousand hands trembled

above me in red blessing,
my fingers pulled at dark soil,

left white roots exposed,
dying in piles, one evening,

one tree’s liquescent body
like august’s flames & my family

needs more water than falls from
summer’s unrelenting dry

earth heaves beneath human desire.
Normal never sustainable—

a complex—lightning strikes
and fire, fire, fire.

Mother Tongue

Must I stop loving

the word because meaning is

forgotten as fishing net, sunk low, slowly

becoming sea floor? Mean once meant shared by all—

in common. Now we’ve narrowed

ourselves stingy & unkind.


Can I cast a spell with this small net

of words & pull-in a more generous tide? And if I

throw my whole self into the sea of language what of my human children,

each separate world of them, rolling in this globe? What of this one

body that held them, for a time, wrapped in skin

the color of sand?


The waves leave us marks

on the shore, scrawling some message

in a long-ago tongue. I can’t decipher water’s momentary script

though my skin bears the trace of its flow & ebb, rivulets

of memory left behind from the years

I was both sea & shore.


Once upon four times, I filled,

a world of water, an inland sea full of life,

other than myself. My body made common—shared. Self & other

forever thrown into question & tied. Perhaps to love

is to tremble at the unmaking of my self &

choose to be unmade anyway.


Twila Newey received her M.F.A. in Writing and Poetics from Naropa. She was a finalist for the 2019 Coniston Prize at Radar Poetry and won honorable mention in the 2019 JuxtaProse Poetry Contest. Her poems also appear in various journals including Green Mountains Review, Summerset Review, Parentheses Journal, and Ruminate. Twila is a poetry editor for Psaltry & Lyre. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.

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