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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

Juan J. Morales


Of Deer, or, Los Venados

Mom is happy when the deer,

los venados, hop the chain-link fence

and graze in her yard. There’s usually

three does and one buck with strong antlers.

Yesterday, they rested in the shade

of the house. She stood two feet away

but could not bring herself to touch

the closest doe. Of course, our family wonders

if the buck is you, Pop, coming to show

Mom that she is not alone. Meanwhile, I am mixed up

in dreams, a son trying to find a lost father

and a mother he fears losing too.

I live 40 minutes away from her,

which might as well be a moon or a planet away.

When I cannot call, I send my love,

hoping it transcends and bends time, deep

into the dreamscape where we find you and your

branches of horns touching the sky and

Mom, now standing next to you with her hand

that rests tenderly on your neck.


If the Octopus Dreams

In the viral video, the octopus sleeps in the black, along the top of the water, suctioned to her tank’s glass walls. Her reflection is slow ripples. At first she’s a placated white, like pristine glaciers that have avoided pollution. The texture roughens—spiky as the fragile coral reef that breathes brown, yellow, and gray. When head twitches, she clouds into the red, purple, and black until transitioning to a gray that surrenders to yellow. Her head and eyes waver but remain shut. Somewhere in its dance of color, I saw a martian landscape appear, a cloud of harsh storm, and then back to the peaceful swivel and drift of clouds that bounces on the water’s surface. The scientists report it unlikely to be octopus dreams, but instead of worrying, I accept all invitations to be submerged.

Actualization Principle

At Lago Muerte, the fishermen calmly cast out their lines, reeling in very tiny fish. I felt out of place because I forgot my pole. When I looked closer, the lake was an empty plain filled with dried logs and rocks. I could barely make out the line where the waves once lapped. One of the fishermen turned to me, “This is an impossible feeling,” he said as he tugged another glistening one out of the lake. The fish tried to breathe and stared past me. “Everything is nonsense, but you can’t help but feel lucky.” He resumed fishing. Afraid of being hooked by one of them, I backed up. I started telling them about the time I hooked my thumb all the way through, but they stopped me because I had already told them.
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Juan J. Morales is the son of an Ecuadorian mother and Puerto Rican father. He is the author of three poetry collections, including The Handyman’s Guide to End Times, winner of the 2019 International Latino Book Award. Recent poems have appeared in Crazyhorse, The Laurel Review, Breakbeats Vol. 4 LatiNEXT, Acentos Review, Collateral, terrain.org, Pank, and Poetry. He is a CantoMundo Fellow, a Macondo Fellow, the editor/publisher of Pilgrimage Press, and Professor of English and the Associate Dean of the College of Humanities Arts & Social Sciences at Colorado State University Pueblo.


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