a literary journal published by the Black Earth Institute dedicated to re-forging the links between art and spirit, earth and society
I’ve crumpled my calendar,
days folding into themselves
like a world without borders
as if a country
could own the water
could own the wind.
My wild garden keeps time for me.
Yesterday, the first freesias appeared
like a quiet explosion
or magician’s act—
And I knew it was February.
I placed a few fragile stems in a jar,
the perfume of persistence.
In a world swaying like a rope bridge,
the scent steadies
It’s still winter, but we haven’t seen rain
orange nasturtiums are curling,
lavender blooms turning gray.
But the oxalis don’t seem to care—
their bright yellow faces
as they spread green arms
across the lawn
as if any kind of calendar was nothing
more than a puffball in the air.
through the stratosphere, seven miles in the air,
navigating two worlds.
Christmas dawn, a hammer pounding concrete
startled me from sleep, an aguacero let loose
turning blue Borinquen skies to gray.
Rainfall amplified the coquis’ call,
cicadas added their trill, and the day danced
to Atabey’s song.
Island climate is a carousel —
el cielo escampó, the sky sang turquoise
while the sun hummed harmony.
Boxing Day, I wake to Oakland’s quiet chill,
a lone robin chirping, muted by glass,
raindrops swirling on the window.
Close to the Central Valley, Salad Bowl of the World,
my morning goal — fill my fridge with greens —
lettuce can be luxury in San Juan.
Island-grown produce takes tortuous treks to the table.
Santa Isabel’s tomatoes breathe Caribbean air until picked
and sent across the sea to the States.
There, the auburn globes are put in crates and shipped
back to Puerto Rico’s SuperMax and FreshMart
for consumers who scrape thin billfolds to buy.
This is the shape of colonialism in a shopping cart —
ricocheted tomatoes, Kellogg’s corn flakes,
pink-cheeked Santas & snow-flecked pines.
This is domination spooned like sugar in our coffee
and the dulces the alcaldes throw from their cars
to kids on the corner at Navidad.
Outside the supermarket, a white-haired woman
bangs a ladle on a soup pot, shouts ¡Basta ya! ¡Basta ya!
And the coquis loudly sing the chorus.
not like tecatos
slumped and scratching
scabbed and sun-burnt skin,
but with sober silence
soaking the air after storm
turned all to ruin.
not like sunbathers
on Condado’s beach,
coated with Bain de Soleil,
but the nakedness of wind and want
and the bitter scent of dread.
Rooster in arms—
not a blue-plumed gallo de pelea
wearing spurs, sporting men
betting next month’s rent
for a better chance,
but a gallo that dreams
a gallina and golden eggs.
On a tall concrete wall—
not a factory facade
in Trastalleres, barrio peppered
with printers’ and mechanics’ shops,
but a wall turned auburn phoenix
on Santurce’s rebirthed streets,
acrylics flowing like amniotic fluid
in the muralist’s hands.
NOTE: This is an ekphrastic poem written in response to the mural by Luís Pérez that appears on the front cover of my book, Hurricanes, Love Affairs, and Other Disasters, as well as a tribute to the Santurce Es Ley street art movement.
Susana Praver-Pérez is a Pushcart-nominated poet and a winner of the San Francisco Foundation/Nomadic Press Literary Prize for Poetry (2021) who divides her time between Oakland, California and San Juan, Puerto Rico. Susana is an alum of Las Dos Brujas Writers’ Workshop and has studied creative writing at Naropa Institute, UC Berkley’s “Poetry for the People,” and Berkley City College from which she received a Certificate in Creative Writing with a focus on Poetry. Susana’s work has appeared in numerous literary journals and anthologies. Her first full-length book of poetry, titled Hurricanes, Love Affairs and Other Disasters, was released by Nomadic Press in June 2021.