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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

Petra Kuppers

Moby the Seadragon

Kangaroo Island, off West Australia, is one of the very few habitats of the Leafy Seadragon. Ghostnets, discarded fishing nets that drift in the open water, entangle and trap many marine organisms.

Octopus meets Leafy Seadragon off Kangaroo Island’s coast, cast for drama school. Phycodurus Eques gently lowers its head, fan wave, a drift of seaweed camouflage. Octopus tips his hat, again, again. Presents plump spawn from purple magician’s chapeau. Trojan daddy opens his bellybutton, and they stream: gentle baby leaves, swell into salt, into the open. An O of snout, a suck, a tiny crustacean, gift-wrapped neon microfilament, whooshes down each gullet. Unity. Octopus bobs. Dark horse’s tears mingle in the stream. Eight tentacles glide into ball gown bauble, a mass stallion procession gallops backward through Circus Maximus, drag ripples guts, saws a salad. Other baby dragons watch, dream of danger, thumbless creatures of the deep, strangling tender. Tips touch, kiss under drift: Japanese plastic bag, suntan lotion bottle cap, death spiral into thong.

Days later, shoe beaches on the sand: size

six leviathan, web of small corpses bound by fishing line chews pink foam. Octopus beaks chicken-like sate, aged seaweed mourns in unshod shallows. Tragedy radiates. The seagulls applaud. The nets drift close, hungry ancient ghosts.

Cruisy and Drony

“As animals disappear in the wild, cruises put on videos for Arctic passengers”


Cruisy McCruiseface promised the moon.

Polar bear white, artic foxes with button noses.

Snow hares zig when you zag.


Drony McDroneface searched in the thinner cold air.

Day night day, on the cruise ship’s demand.

Joysticks spindled innards into slewy turns.

Down crevasses and over the high pass.

They were not there.


No bear.

No bear print.

No red slayed like an oily slick coated the sun and the moon.


Then the hare. There she jumped.

Cows and hares and tortoises jumped over and out.

Drony followed, entranced.

Operator lost in the beige haze of shipbound horizon.


On the ship, they now play ten-year-old nature videos for inspiration.

Old bear, old hare, old fox.


Bernd and Emma. Clayton and Doug. Julie and Annabelle.

They paint watercolor blood into icicle wash.

Lemmings with easels at Cruisy’s stern.

Polar sunglasses to cut the glare.

Breakers force meltlands apart.

Vixen race across the rag.


Drony remembers them all, their beady eyes, petrol fumes, desire to hunt alive.

On the other side of the moon, there’s judgment day.


Drowned animals roam in the Thunderdome.

Drony shivers.

The signal comes.

Drony goes in.


Petra Kuppers is a disability culture activist and a community performance artist. Her third poetry book, the ecosomatic Gut Botany (2020), was named one of the top ten poetry collections of 2020 by the New York Public Library. She is the author of the queer/crip speculative short story collection Ice Bar (2018), and many academic books. She is the Artistic Director of The Olimpias, an international disability culture collective; teaches at the University of Michigan and at Goddard College; and co-creates Turtle Disco, a somatic writing studio, with her wife, poet and dancer Stephanie Heit, in Ypsilanti, Michigan. She is a current fellow of the Black Earth Institute.

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