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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

Alison Hawthorne Deming


Wild Apples

Henry imagined them   the apples

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.


Whitewater Draw

The desolation is perfect. Vast basin.

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.


National Forest

Bell Rock. Courthouse Rock. Devil’s Bridge.

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.

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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.


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