a literary journal published by the Black Earth Institute dedicated to re-forging the links between art and spirit, earth and society
I lost or won the town lottery and am the designated convoy from our district charged with finding the edge. I’m on my way to meet up with a cartographer, diver, rockhound, painter, and to round out the crew, I’m the poet. The lyric is long gone, not enough breath without interim puffs from the oxygen machines attached to everyone’s hips to sustain the line. Staccato and gasp is more the phrasing of the day. New language invented by brains overloaded with carbon dioxide. Apocalypse dictionary graffitied on abandoned buildings, the already-given-up-ones who figure no harm done adding a few more aerosol can CFCs to a doomed atmosphere.
My pack is heavy with essentials: Twinkies, that preservative-laden snack predicted to outlive a catastrophe (and did), the hydroponic greens a neighbor left on my doorstep grown with spit and the now norm intense sunlight. Ziploc bag of crystals, salt that bites. Concentrated halite extracted by dubious means in the time when the sweetwater big lake was a warm Devonian sea, ripe with multi-celled organisms lucky to have an anus and a mouth. Fossil traces embraced by stones that wash up on shores no longer shores but steep cliffs the lake hasn’t drowned yet. I fondle the plastic package, not invented when the contents were harvested. The sharp glint of mineral scratching mineral.
I take my weekly dose, the smallest pinch between thumb and index finger. Place it on my salty taste buds located on the front sides of the tongue. Cradle it in my mouth. Salivate. Savor this nutrient necessary for electrolyte balance and survival. I carefully pinch the blue and red lines of the plastic bag until I’m confident it is sealed. Stash it in my backpack inside the handstitched secret inner pocket. I shift the pack onto my shoulders, buckle and cinch the straps to distribute the weight.
The rendezvous point isn’t far from where the edge is thought to be. The challenge: tectonics, land shifts that reorchestrate known to unknown. North no longer fixed; compasses now relics. The maps in circulation near abstract art with all the correction lines and invading blue. If only that was still the color of water, now more a gray muck with the waste runoff and carcasses.
For people like me who never had a good sense of direction, birds. I’ve developed my winged communication, a deep listening. Seagull and plover call: water is near. But here, in the woods, I rely on flight patterns, calls of the carolina wren, golden-winged warbler, common raven. I tune into winged frequency and run through the undergrowth, paying more attention to the calls and reverberation of air than to breaking trail. Sometimes it is as if my feet don’t touch the ground.
Stephanie Heit is a poet, dancer, and teacher of somatic writing and contemplative movement practices. She is a Zoeglossia Fellow, bipolar, and a member of the Olimpias, an international disability performance collective. Her poetry collection, The Color She Gave Gravity (The Operating System), explores the seams of language, movement and mental health difference. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in journals such as Sonora Review, Rogue Agent, Ecotone, Anomaly, Bombay Gin, Dunes Review, Typo, and Disability Studies Quarterly. She lives on Three Fires Confederacy territory in Ypsilanti, Michigan where she creates Turtle Disco, a somatic writing space, with her wife and collaborator, Petra Kuppers.