a literary journal published by the Black Earth Institute dedicated to re-forging the links between art and spirit, earth and society
that might be cultivated from the Crab
named them in English and Latin
a man who possessed a walker’s appetite
filling his pockets on the saunter out
eating them one by one on the return
four or five miles worth of pocket apples.
He believed fruits best when eaten in the wind
one thought for the field another for the house.
He loved the racy and wild American flavors
knew that Solomon says comfort me with apples
Homer and Herodotus spoke of them and
the Prose Edda held apples could restore
youth in one weakened by age.
Apple that grows in the old Cellar-Hole (Malus cellaris)
the Truant’s Apple (Cessatoris) which no boy
however late will go by without knocking some off
the Chickaree-Apple Partridge-Apple
Slug-Apple the Concord Apple not the Discord
the Railroad-Apple from a core thrown out of the cars
the Saunterer’s-Apple you may lose yourself
before you find that one Wine of New England
the Apple where hangs the Forgotten Scythe
the Beauty of the Air the Frozen-Thawed Apple
better than bottled cider your jaws are the cider-press.
Some brindled with red like a cow some touched with green rust
like fine lichen. To name them all call in the sunrise and sunset
call in the woodpecker purple finch squirrel and jay.
Grasses winter dead
but golden. Morning sun
slanting to set them aglow.
Black bush. Rabbit bush.
The dead stalks of sotol.
Skeletons bleaching in desert sun.
Mountains offer lift—grey blue
haze of unattainable heights.
Sandhill cranes gather here
to glean in winter. Rise and soar
and rest along water’s edge
where endless drought has left
a shallow refuge they know
how to find. The voices are first
to hold the mind—songs and churrs
and calls by thousands mingled
into the pleasure to be among others
of their kind. Wings parachute
as they descend then backpedal
to ease the touchdown. Emotions
rise and call like that—a thin
voice then cacophony that makes
it hard to think. I’d bring you here
if I could, fly you across
disease ridden mountains and plains
to know this astonishment
of belonging. They lift as one,
descend, the loneliness over,
the fear of winter. During radiation
you climbed Mt. Lafayette
higher and higher over frozen
streambeds and iced rock
testing your body, knowing it,
refusing to let it be a stranger.
Time has made the land forms
and they grow more beautiful with age.
Names come from the human world,
possession bleeding into perception.
What if the land had its own language?
No alphabet but steady drone
of grasslands, groan of mountains,
drought-fire’s scream—a drawn-out cry,
hiss of rain, simmer of seeds
stirring restless in the soil
pure presence and process
breaking into the place
made new by cataclysm.
That’s the planet speaking
and she cares about the fissures
in the dry river bed, about the lack
of ripe cherries in Washington
and blue crabs in Maryland,
savannah lions down by half.
She cares about the sunrise, dandelions,
and PCBs. She embraces whatever
we give her—blood, bone, rust
become her. She invented us
to do the work the word “care” implies,
invented us to invent words,
the thicket of endless possibilities
so death does not get the last word,
so groan and hiss could be accompanied
by our chatter, dirge, thesis, and psalm.
Alison Hawthorne Deming’s most recent nonfiction book is A Woven World: On Fashion, Fishermen, and the Sardine Dress from Counterpoint Press. She is the author of five nonfiction books and five poetry collections, including Zoologies: On Animals and the Human Spirit and Stairway to Heaven. Recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, Stegner Fellowship at Stanford University, National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships, and Walt Whitman Award, she is Regents Professor Emerita at the University of Arizona.