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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

Sandra Alcosser

All Flesh is made of grass



One body two I am not like you

No one made a teacup from my bones

Or built a home where I stopped to wallow

No spider wove a web or bird blew

Up from my footstep — no grass

Sprouted when I passed

But one body two

Standing across a vast

Meadow I listen as your calf

Croons and a woman’s

Body swaddles me

Scented with cold cream

A mother’s moist breathing

Her smoky breath




Dancing always brought them

Birds sank their feet

Into the fur of the bison

Fluffing feathers deep

Above each spine stealing

For their warm nest weavings

Bits of curly hair in curled talons


Because tenacious drupe

withstood slow wind song of prairie

We called its red flesh – buffaloberry


Because they wallowed

Because they ate flowers

Because they loved their own kind

Because they loved their own




Thirteen million bodies

Rifled $2.00 a hide

17 skeletons an acre – bison

Floating down river

To Michigan Carbon Works’ fertilizer —

Boot black — sugar filters —


Two sisters two hundred miles

Between shared their oatcakes and tea

At 10 each morning on bison bones —

Boiling water for their lonely

Telepathy the sisters steeped

Sagebrush leaves in flo-blue china

So delicate they could see its arteries –


Smell the pulverized bison inside




One body two I am not like you

Each trace you made became a city

A body to shelter a family

A hide to belt a steam machine

A body born walking with teeth

A body born prey that never sleeps

Robes and hump ribs cups and spoons

But one body two just like you

I began in a shadow of heat and water

It was thunder it was shatter

A cloak my mother

We are mammals

Together – steamy and dusty

All flesh is made of grass



Presidents and premiers Address the young ladies of the seminary
From outer space


Birds shimmy seeds into topknots of trees

Become strangler figs dangling toward gravity

To shelter the young girls of the seminary


Who sit in a circle of white pleats

And blue blazers and listen to their leaders’

Voices from outer space preaching —

Mutually assured destruction by land or sea


Who will they rocket next — a chimpanzee

Fruit flies, a dog they snatch from the street

We cultivate anomie — roaring at reality

With its roots in everything the king can see


One girl lacquers her hair into a torpedo


Who can we believe? We girls of the seed

Bed, we — young ladies of the seminary


I had just come to terms with fallout, and along comes Rachel Carson.

(Cartoon, Saturday Review)

1963 and the earth said a little less poison please

With rustling sounds through fallen leaves

The sparrows flitting understory

Said yes please less for me — the ant hoisting

His brother’s body in the nest said yes

And sharks feeding in the sea and fish eagles

Building cribs of mops and lawn chairs yes

And vultures who couldn’t stop eating

Could not stop eating


A little less 2-4-D — less DDT and BHC

A little less in our well a little less in our bloodstream

From the nerves of earthworms to the ovaries

Of thrush and their exquisite melodies

For everything eating and eaten — a little less poison please

God The Condor

I pull the God of Thunder I pull Him

From a nest I pull a little nestling limp


Hold Him to my chest from His stomach take

Half a cup of plastic half a cup of glass

And from His crop lift four bottle caps

What will make us well again what will make

Us sing poisoned by ideas poisoned by machines

God is cleaning up now God is eating


Inside a clown-pink face lead bullet casings

A black boa frames His shoulders like a painting

Imagine no more soaring no more Pleistocene

No more clouds pulled together by His wingbeats


God’s coming for us now He looks a little queasy

He rubs his head against the rock He sharpens His beak


Sandra Alcosser’s poems have appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times, Paris Review, Ploughshares, Poetry and the Pushcart Prize Anthology. She received two individual artist fellowships from National Endowment for the Arts, and her books of poetry, A FISH TO FEED ALL HUNGER and EXCEPT BY NATURE, received the highest honors from National Poetry Series, Academy of American Poets and Associated Writing Programs, as well as the Larry Levis Award and the William Stafford Award for Poetry. Her four artist book collaborations with Brighton Press have been exhibited internationally and reside in museum and special collections including The National Museum of Women in the Arts and Musee d’art Americain Giverny. She was the National Endowment for the Arts’ first Conservation Poet for the Wildlife Conservation Society and Poets House, New York, as well as Montana’s first poet laureate and recipient of the Merriam Award for Distinguished Contribution to Montana Literature. She founded and directs SDSU’s MFA each fall.

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