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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

Rachel Morgan

Still Life at 39

They ask such questions now.
The afternoon news program
tells me stars are disappearing—
we manufacture day all night,
egos unstitching the darkness.
I am so amazed at the times
I’m actually alive. My answers
about war and bad men sound
like platitudes. A coastal disaster
far from this farmland, living
in a creaky house I didn’t build,
drinking water from a well
I didn’t dig. I am so amazed
at all the times my children are alive—
like snow over the ocean,
aurora borealis, a mirror mountain
lake made from a volcano.
They open mouths, hands,
belief-spaces to swallow my analogies
for headlines as we zip through town,
their round faces in rearview reflection,
another question surging,
the next wave washing the scraps
of shell farther from my useless hand.
Silence is never an answer until it is.

Due West

Scentless Birds of Paradise promise to the West,

escaping the flat blue foundry of the Mojave.

Feeling sick half way there, I wonder where

the land will end and where to go from there.

Couples loop sordid promises on bathroom stalls

across the ample interstates of America.


Vacationing planes painted like killer whales

sink toward the airport with jet echolocation,

disturbing my windowpanes and sleep.


Without meaning to, I write Lost Angeles.

Wind in the green paradise of fronds imitates

the spatter of rain. The days after the rain,

those are beautiful also, but there is no rain.


Off the coast the Pacific is dark all the way across,

even over the Great Garbage Patch, our plastic,

our purchases. The lights ascend as passengers

touch down. Sometimes a flower is so striking,

it doesn’t need to bother with scent.

We’ll approach curiously, just for the beauty.


Rachel Morgan is the author of the chapbook, Honey & Blood, Blood & Honey (Final Thursday Press, 2017), and she is the co-editor of Fire Under the Moon: An Anthology of Contemporary Slovene Poetry (Black Dirt Press). Her work recently appears in the anthology Fracture: Essays, Poems, and Stories on Fracking in America (Ice Cube Press, 2016) and in Crazyhorse, Prairie Schooner, Salt Hill, Boulevard, Alaska Quarterly Review, Barrow Street, and elsewhere. She was a finalist for the 2017 National Poetry Series and semi-finalist for 2016 Discovery/Boston Review Poetry Contest and recipient of a fellowship at Vermont Studio Center. She is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Currently she teaches at the University of Northern Iowa and is the Poetry Editor for the North American Review.

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