a literary journal published by the Black Earth Institute dedicated to re-forging the links between art and spirit, earth and society
I: Evening Time, Pigeon Point Lighthouse Hostel, California, during winter storms
Sofa island, my carpet island of bare feet, heat, aquarium purple in yellow umbra light shadow from cozy shades: 70s textured tan bunched fabric, “mid-century,” slightly askew, pockets like pores. Water rushes in my ear. It’s the aquarium, not the ocean outside grey in the cloud-covered evening light, past the cliff’s wet edge, fog-shrouded. White-yellow slugs on distant rocks, rest, swim, dark heads in the surf, seal-skin smooth calf-leather. A wooden sailing ship in full plumage looms over the aquarium. Assembled over the long duration, careful with sharp edges. Bronze sails beaten and bowed, metal lines fit to resemble tight ropes, a flag flies in a wind I cannot feel. The bow tacks toward the sofa. The whole thing the size of a toddler or a full-grown harbor seal: substantial heft, it founders above the fishes’ heads. Golden fish, pale to blood-orange, four, freely glide through sunken forest, fake boulders, a galleon as oxygenator. Dart, hover. Horizontal swerve. Eat a pellet of fish food from beneath surface. Wall images of lighthouses: five of them, a map of California, fire extinguisher. Towers erect, jab into colorful skies, around them waves, assaultive, lick upward, pink cloud fury. Two prints of men, in harvest of giant plants, fleshy tongue-leaves envelop bowed down figures, heads turned toward soil, thick coats, slivers of skin, one brown, one white, hands spread, tend, downward, rubber-clad feet firmly planted.
II: At night, Pigeon Point Lighthouse Hostel, California, during winter storms
Hot tub island, my heatfloat island in briny coolness, crisp wave scent ionic on my scalp, the ocean’s cold edge. White mane curls fetch up on boulder folds, gnarly fists grasp them from below. The lighthouse’s corona latches onto fog crawl, lassoes in the stars.
III: Lunch time, Costanoa, Cascade Café, Pacific Coast, California
Logs, notched for the ceiling beams. Braced, steel manacle, sleeve. Traditional lodge design in camping ground. Ricotta pancakes, savory, full of bacon bits. Scrambled eggs and sourdough bread, toasted with a touch of flame. An old black-and-white photograph, framed by a thin black funereal stripe. Big Tree Grove, Santa Cruz. A white logger lies in the scar of a giant tree, a redwood, primed to fall away from him in just a few dangerous strokes of the axe he holds vertical: the axe, upright, after having compromised the uprightness of the tree, the gap vaginal, ex-virginal, to be claimed by his beard, his garters, the denim shirt. A day’s work well done, repose, with a wink to the jubilatory daguerreotype visitor, admiring the brawny yet lean muscles. Next to the logger’s left arm, alone in the tree shadow, there’s his hat, soft and molded, textures of calf skin, velvet, creeping away to where still alive heartwood cells touch brethren, breathe with one liquid stroke up and down the giant stem.
Petra Kuppers is a disability culture activist and a community performance artist. She is a Professor at the University of Michigan, and she teaches on the MFA in Interdisciplinary Arts at Goddard College. Her most recent poetry collections are Gut Botany (March 2020 with Wayne State University Press’ Made in Michigan Series), PearlStitch (Spuyten Duyvil: 2016) and the chapbook Green Orion Woman (dancing girl press, 2018). Her stories and poems have appeared in Anomaly/Drunken Boat, PANK, The Sycamore Review, Visionary Tongue, The Future Fire, Capricious, Festival Writer, Accessing the Future: A Disability-Themed Anthology of Speculative Fiction, and QDA: Queer Disability Anthology. Her speculative queer/crip short story collection, Ice Bar, appeared in 2018. She is the Artistic Director of The Olimpias, an international disability culture collective. She is a Fellow of the Black Earth Institute, (2018-2021) and on a fellowship of the Institute for the Humanities, University of Michigan, in 2019-2020, to work on her new book, Eco Soma.