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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

Brianna McCabe Van Dyke


This might be the old cottonwood’s last

fall if we can’t get some more water to it my dad said

and the urgency is there and so is the likelihood of

failure and so are the other priorities of greater concern

than the great half-alive tree and how could it be that this earth

will grow you and then let you die or that an irrigation ditch is abandoned

and rainwater whimpers and what once was the right location

for a giant cottonwood now is not and even so the gold leaves mix loudly

with the graydead branches and those black birds I don’t know

what kind (probably crows though I hate to say it)

and I want so much to

live even when I know what I’ve lost o cottonwood,

teach us how to die now so we do not have to wait until our final death

to learn to live I say mumbling some version of an old prayer I’ve held

about how sleep is a little death and so is surrender and

even with all that water it may die and

even with all that water it may live.

Once there was and once there was not

They say that in the very old days the Sleeping Ute Mountain

was a Great Warrior God who came to fight against

the ones causing much trouble and the Great Warrior

defeated the trouble-ones but was badly hurt and lay down and

fell into a deep sleep and became a sacred mountain with the

uncanny shape of a giant body lying on its back, arms folded

across its chest, each crest and fall in the mountain tracing the

profile of a nose or elbows or knees and this is not one of those

landmarks you have to squint and tilt your head just so to see,

this sleeping Warrior God who lets rain clouds slip from his pockets

when he is happy and who would one day awaken and rise up

to help in the fight against the enemies, or as some kids would whisper

on the playground or at the pool, that the Warrior would awaken and stomp

on the whiteman, and I was a white kid living at the base of the Warrior God

mountain and the shadow of that giant sleeping body would catch my eye

on the way to school, the pointy toes itching to move.





Note: The myth of the Sleeping Ute Mountain is from the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe


Brianna McCabe Van Dyke earned her MA in literature from Colorado State University and is currently a student at The Center for Action and Contemplation’s Living School. She founded the award-winning literary magazine Ruminate and served as editor-in-chief for over a decade. Brianna lives with her family in Fort Collins, Colorado.

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