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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

Carol Alexander


Weeding

No place for hothouse blooms. A thrush whistles its bright sequence

therefore, morning once more. I’ve turned down the news.

 

A riot in the peppered overgrowth

near-naked pink clover fronting a hill. There’s a basketful of heads

flicked off,

a tumbril for carting away rebellious proles.

 

The obvious, at times a lie.

 

The war flower skirts a victory garden, leaves a pollen smear,

this beauty richer when it goes without, though my hand’s been sought

in a stained collusion.

 

A betrayal of what makes its bed unbidden, rife.

Here’s balm for heart disease, nectar cup for long-tongued bees.

 

The dead say

this is a question of influence—yours or ours.

 

I crawl around the weeds, trying to find the lucky sprig dropped carelessly

as if it would cry out. Her skirt hem swings wide of the wheelbarrow

while she earnests this small field, sunburnt across neck and chest.

 

To follow in emulation, such a simple thing. Her hair bound, a Roman matron

stooping. I am earning my keep.

 

It’s now the hoppers rise up between taut blades, disturbed

and thumbnail-sized spring toads, skin like dampened clods, scatter in the wind.

 

I want to say

I’ve been displaced, that the sweated sugar in crushed stems smells of loss,

that I have slept in clover to a saintly hum, bees uncurling from their sticky cells.

 

One note, bending under pressure of the fret—

thrush again. All morning

island fog has darkened the sun; needs to rain. There will be an interval

a suspension in which nothing pleads its case.


Ramified

Children pile up rocks in the stream

& the pleasure of watching ripples divide only

 

to summon strength  to reform a broken color

bones still soft  hair slickly parted

 

what they do

a whole language

 

lost

the way wind strips away chatter & chaff.

 

These little mounds also collapse

& rebuild— silt  gravel  vast uncollected stuff

 

a cycle of nouns 1 billion of them listen

even without agency a noise as they slump

 

dragged into the streambed  embedded

one child with wispy hair insisting

 

on pyramids

scrapes & sludge on her knees

 

indifferently marred while afternoon too collapses

crepuscular  a train passing by piercing holes in the blue

 

but what is un-solid cannot be   broken down.

Do you know something about human footprints

 

tracker of time warps who once nosed a creek

unlikely in dimension after rain

 

who fish-hooked into shallows with a strand of hair & bent pin

watching it wrap around a twig.  A paper nest, a glass pipette.

 

When you returned   with sunlight’s proof

such delicate emptiness.


Battle

Bullets are bartered for mouth-worn nouns

while translation—black gold/rapeseed/wheat

the startled spillage over streets, fields

the caskets vultures scent—is rubble that fits into the palm.

Again, spring has come too late.

 

I am thinking of you on that convoy

your teddy bear flown to Washington, D.C.

 

Spring with its stubborn licks of root

long green muscles aching to push as in childbirth

the time of softened earth, of shovel and hoe.

What will it trade for bones that still have years of growth?

A mourning ring around the sun, a brooch with a sharpened pin.

 

The ethics of want can drain a river

but the muck has turned your eyes a strange brown.

 

Eye language, hand language. Bodies plummet

crow-dark, for a moment investigating the breath

that passes in a forlorn plume of desire.

Is the last thought madness? A country shapes on the tongue

but the wheeling sky, the crust of snow

 

the clouds composed of horses

how a building was there then not there.

 

Days stretch beyond into a place where songs are made.

Where songs are made, strands of black and gold

tinged with iridescent melt are grapevines of the killed harvest;

children lose their dogs. Caravans of bitterness

go winding into realms of the future and the futureless.

 

Your mother says love, pray love

eat these seeds and sprout a story only you can tell.

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Carol Alexander is the author of the poetry collections Fever and Bone (Dos Madres Press, 2021), Environments (Dos Madres Press, 2018) and Habitat Lost (Cave Moon Press, 2017). Her poems appear in a variety of anthologies and in journals such as The American Journal of Poetry, Canary, The Common, Cumberland River Review, Denver Quarterly, The Goose, Hamilton Stone Review, One, Pangyrus, Pif, Ruminate, The Seattle Review of Books, Southern Humanities Review, South Florida Poetry Journal, Stonecoast Review, Sweet Tree Review, Terrain.org and Third Wednesday. Additional work is forthcoming in Big City Lit, Delmarva Review, Free State Review, Raintown Review, and Verdad. With Stephen Massimilla, Alexander is co-editor of the anthology Stronger Than Fear: Poems of Empowerment, Compassion, and Social Justice (Spring, 2022).


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