a literary journal published by the Black Earth Institute dedicated to re-forging the links between art and spirit, earth and society
when we bend down to test it in our hands.
Weather’s hotter. Floodplains ooze. No memory
of when the elements so raged and shattered.
Ice and fire, wind and rain. We have the power
to splice each gene with pesticides. We spray
more chemicals when insects’ niches co-evolve.
We fatten hogs on drugs. We beef up cows
with peptides; hardly balk at their diminishing
resistance. An irrigation system terraforms the desert
pumping dry the ancient water-table until it’s red
with iron from its last barren drops. Our feedstock’s
swill, a load of antibiotics. Bloated, bulked-up chickens.
Decades of monocrop. The runoff slewing nitrates
thicker than the horseshit when the lawyers
come to pester us with threats of lawsuits, pricking
like mosquitos and no-see-ums. Potato beetles.
Spider mites. Cabbage loopers. Weevils. Invasive
troops of mollusks, aphids, fungus, caterpillars.
Each silo stuffed with germ for syrups we factory farm.
We itch and cough and hack and break out into boils.
A haze now blurs across the land, a mockery of halos,
an airborne opioid of soiled dreams. Inhale methane
and fetor—the fertilizer’s tang, close earth exchanged
with every breath. Old tractors settle into cark and rust.
Thin-skinned amphibians die off. The bees collapse.
The viruses of unbelief pass over in new variations
with junk we feed upon—quick clicks—soon spiraling
into the body politic the way fast food produces cancer.
We collect our seeds and give them back to corporate,
who’ve patented our lives. Dust storms. Derechos. Clouds
of cicadas shading us, orbiting and swooping over
ravaged plots—they babble through the Bible belts.
They stream a firestorm between us: a whirlwind’s
blackout at their arrival as they cross the barbwire
fences, cattle guards, cutting through the heart
of this here country. Their tiny gears go nibbling
until the crops are whittled down to nubs; fly off
then drop down on us, attacking as a swarm,
a shrill insistent pulse we numb to as the sky’s
eclipsing dark. By morning we awake to witness,
clinging to limp bark, their empty shells
as hollowed as ourselves
who now no longer listen to their songs or cries.
Will Cordeiro has work published or forthcoming in AGNI, Best New Poets, Bennington Review, The Cincinnati Review, Copper Nickel, DIAGRAM, Palette Poetry, Threepenny Review, THRUSH, and elsewhere. Will won the 2019 Able Muse Book Award for Trap Street. Will is also coauthor of Experimental Writing: A Writer’s Guide and Anthology, forthcoming from Bloomsbury. Will coedits Eggtooth Editions and currently teaches in the Honors College at Northern Arizona University.