a literary journal published by the Black Earth Institute dedicated to re-forging the links between art and spirit, earth and society
After Jamaal May
For Hope House, Dubuque, Iowa, 2018
Did you think there wouldn’t be books here?
Did you imagine white walls, strict rules and regulations, curfews, a line of sad people waiting for others to dish out soup for them?
If you pictured concrete slabs, fluorescent lights, large rooms filled with bunk beds –
here, that’s not what you’ll find.
This is a place where people sit at long tables, where dishes are passed family style, carrots, pork, greens. It’s a home where the faces of Gandhi and Martin Luther King stare out from walls, where posters assert that money is not speech.
This is a place where in November we honor the dead, where in December we discuss the origins of the Santa Claus story, where we celebrate the Easter Vigil reading Thich Nhat Hanh, where all year long old men sing “Take me home country roads” on Sunday nights, where children draw rainbows on the ceiling.
This is a place where an architect designs a villa in California, where a twenty-two-year-old edits his first feature-length film and enlists sixty people to produce it, where we sit to memorize new alphabets.
This is a place where a small boy whose father was deported learns to read in two languages, where a man who suffers from alcoholism befriends a squirrel named Scruffy, feeds him peanuts out of his hand.
This is a place with floors of dark wood, with shelves and more shelves of books, poetry and history and chemistry, where there’s always someone sitting down to read them.
This is a place where people ask just why they need to get a job, why jobs are needed at all, why should we aspire to own a home, why can’t we just share.
This is a place where giving and receiving are one, where I belong and so do you, even though you think you don’t, even though you live across town and take pride in giving a few dollars a year to those poor homeless you’ve not yet managed to visit, those poor disadvantaged who probably don’t even read books.
Jeannine M. Pitas is the author of three poetry chapbooks and one full-length collection, Things Seen and Unseen (Mosaic Press, 2019). She is also the Spanish-English translator of I Remember Nightfall (Ugly Duckling Presse, 2017), a collection of four books by acclaimed Uruguayan poet Marosa di Giorgio. Originally from Buffalo NY, she lived in the UK, Poland, Uruguay, Nicaragua, and Canada before finding her way to the Driftless Region of the USA. She lives in Iowa and teaches at the University of Dubuque.