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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

Derek Sheffield

Little Song

for Mark Irwin


Millions of years had sketched the grit

of umber and ochre in the sandstone walls

we hiked between. We had just met.

“It feels good being you,” you said,


your hands burrowed into the pockets

of my borrowed coat. Every leaf-

stripping gust in that high bright

swept through us, and the trickle of a creek


kept nicking at the trail. The gray roots

in the photo I took look like emergent

mastodons. “Jade,” you said and stopped

to pick up a stone and offer it to me.


“You could make something.” Its green round

in my palm, I felt for what it could become.

Still Time

In a wide
and motionless circle, nine

Chinook salmon
below a stilled spillway,

nose to tail-fin, wait,
faint flutterings rounding their backs

in place, each moment
slipping (a white bubble

up from the dark) through the clock face
they make of creek water,

a count we might mistake
as ours.


Derek Sheffield’s collection of poetry, Through the Second Skin (Orchises, 2013), was a finalist for the Washington State Book Award. His poems have also appeared in The Southern Review, Poetry, Orion, The Gettysburg Review, AGNI, and The Georgia Review, and were given special mention in the Puschart Prize Anthology. Winner of the James Hearst Poetry Prize judged by Li-Young Lee, he has received fellowships from Artist Trust and the Sustainable Arts Foundation. He lives with his family on the east slopes of the Cascades in Washington State where he teaches poetry and ecological writing at Wenatchee Valley College. He is the poetry editor of

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