Please help the Black Earth Institute continue to make art and grow community so needed for our time. Donate now »

a literary journal published by the Black Earth Institute dedicated to re-forging the links between art and spirit, earth and society

Brenda Delfino

Foreign Sorrow

I’ve been robbing words from elegies

since I walked this barren ground.

By robbing I don’t mean

permanent state powers


but more or less how this sorrow is borrowed.

Y mis hijas? the ones I’ve yet to have,

they live between the desire of my breasts and

a future I cannot promise them to have.


My tears are named after a woman whose cupped palms held

fresh water for all her animals to drink, how she pulled from

the inside well of self-springing when her pleads to the sun

dried out like cowhide.


By barren I don’t mean unable to bear fruit.

Maybe I misjudged the living desert, until antelopes

sprung out from canyons in Zion, their red fur

minerals manifesting in rock.


Once, I believed my fertility could bring

balance back to earth. Once I thought

I shed the burden of widows.


I know the missing,

my unnamed daughters

this fertile earth.

Consider the Hands that Write This Letter

after Aracelis Girmay and Marina Wilson


Consider the hands

that write this letter.

The left palm stirring the ink of this message,

as it has always done, this gut driven desire

to return to sun craters in grandma’s hands

the imprint of time in her complexion—

I saw once, felt once: hard labor’s silent slap

on the skin, how hands dry up like valleys—

when their giving is feeding, is touching

is the under-nail scent of bleach &

garlic. From her hands I ate morning’s gift:

oatmeal, nuts & honey. Grew into

daily devotion to Jah his earth and all

who mother. For years I have come to see

her this way: one hand submerged in gray

water the other pulling at fabric as if to cast

out demonios that wear us like clothes

& how I pray, I pray to return to her hands:

rough fingers slight bent to disease

a kindness to slow down giving. Though

the giving keeps living beyond the body

that lays to rest. Though my hands don’t

know her labor, I will ink the page,

I will reconstruct the hands

return to what birthed

my becoming.


Brenda Delfino (she/her) is a migrant poeta, editor, translator and educator based in Riverside, CA. She is passionate about community coalition and creativity for self-determination and healing. She is a daughter and a sister and often explores the complexity of both identities in her work. Brenda received an MFA in Creative Writing and Writing for the Performing Arts from University of California, Riverside (UCR). She is a VONA and Along the Chaparral Fellow. Her works have appeared in World Literature Today, Los Angeles Review of Books, Pacific Review, Spectrum Magazine, La Libreta and elsewhere. She has organized and hosted numerous community readings and events. She is currently working on a micro-chapbook of poems about her sister and mental health and is a poetry editor at Black Light Arts Collective and Break Bread. She is Poet B in the podcast Baby Poet.

©2024 Black Earth Institute. All rights reserved.  |  ISSN# 2327-784X  |  Site Admin