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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

Lauren K Alleyne

Silent Dances

Outside, snowflakes hurtle toward earth
like fat, determined birds.
But the wind derails their intent,
makes a gorgeous ballet of their frustrated march.
Inside, I turn the fire off and on again,
my body at war with equilibrium—
toasting then freezing. I stare out at the world
draping itself in February’s late white,
the roadways shouldering each white feather.
What is the world, anyway? The crowd of white
building against anything that stays?
The cars lined along the curb, neat as flowers
in their beds? The flames billowing
at my feet that die without ceremony
with the touch of a switch? Half of me wants
to run out into the swirling, to join the thwarted
flakes in their solemn and whimsical dance.
Half of me grumbles, thinks of shovels and salt,
leaks and ice patches—the potential for damage.
In the distance plows have begun, their drag
haunting the silence. The train whistle
chimes in, then the traffic slushing past.
Then, quiet again. A different kind—one that has known
cargo and trees and the snowy commute home.
The kind that makes me flip the switch on
again, and off again, as I turn, warming
my body like a small world.



Ode to Ghosts

How you must miss it,
mourn in your bodiless kingdoms
this implausible world of old boots and tractors,
gizmos to tell you the way from anywhere
to wherever, or even the daily, solid way
a pan sits on a stove, and water bubbles
certainly around the curve of an egg.
What reproach you must hurl
at our lumbering and mindless heft,
O, weightless ones, as we long for lightness,
curse our bones and bellies, the stubbornness of flesh.
How you come, whittled to essence
and occasional voice, recalling to us
our first name and power, all that makes us: matter.



10 Most Sacred Spots on Earth


The patch of lawn
beneath the backyard tree
where you turned your first soil,
lay your first seeds and hopes,
that you bless with your watching.


The bathtub: made and installed
circa 1925. It holds the whole
of you and bubbles, beside…


In the flat center of an archipelago’s
southmost island
a house with a set of stairs
that leads nowhere awaits you.
Climb them, and look up.


The after-hours silence
of the office. A chair that knows
your shape too well.
Your fingers flying at the keys.


If you lay a candle on the shore
the whole ocean
is made holy.


The birthmark on your lover’s chest,
worthy of pilgrimage.


Is Oz on earth?


Blood-blessed Jerusalem—
its sand-seared deserts; the cutting light.


Four naked women stand waist-deep
in the Aegean, laughter unchained
from their throats. They consecrate the sea.


Beside your kitchen sink, a sprout
breaks through soil into air
and wonder takes root in you.
The world awaits your blossoming.
Lauren K. Alleyne is a native of Trinidad and Tobago.She received her Master of Fine Arts degree in Creative Writing from Cornell University and is currently the Poet-in-Residence and an Assistant Professor of English at the University of Dubuque. A Cave Canem graduate, her work has been awarded numerous prizes, including the 2010 Small Axe Literary Prize, a Lyrical Iowa Award, an Atlantic Monthly Student Poetry Prize, an International Publication Prize from The Atlanta Review, and honorable mention in the 2009 Reginald Shepherd Memorial Poetry Prize and the 2010 Cave Canem Poetry Prize. She has been published in journals such as Black Arts Quarterly, The Caribbean Writer, The Belleview Literary Review, and The Banyan Review among others, as well as in the anthologies Growing Up Girl and Gathering Ground. She is coeditor of From the Heart of Brooklyn, and her chapbook, Dawn In The Kaatskills, was published in April 2008 by Longshore Press.



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