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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

Emily Strauss

The New Geology
Look at these browns, rusts, faded yellows
or tan layers piled a thousand feet, though
you don’t see the badlands twisted around
rushing mud flows, falling angry under dark
skies. You notice the feet of mountains swept
up, then washed out to sea, not once but
three times when the continent sat
on the equator and before and after the crust
broke, tore, fused, rose, fell, melted and
rose again, the mountains grew and eroded
folded, buckled, lay flat, rivers wore away
the rock, meandered and drifted, building
sand bars, banks, points, deltas, estuaries
all during the middle twentieth portion
of earth’s history.
Today these barren badlands, hidden arroyos
sculpted points, smooth playas stand silent
over buried layers as if the land were always
just so, with this present shape, this spectacular
form, the rest forgotten as the tourists stop
to admire the pretty colors.

‘Limit-experience’ in Michael Foucault’s writings is experience of extremes which could release powerful creative forces and produce intense joy.

If a limit-experience is the edge of truth and feeling
where reality lies bare
then this pintail duck who splashes noisily
down to cruise the near shore
is truth laid bare as a glaciered peak
rising in elemental granite
naked of white pines and fir
behind the flooded lake
the purest feeling of life without
undue philosophies
And this robin who guards the shores
of white gravel under the lapping waves
from the solitary canoe and the grebes
swimming as the snow melts
is the limit of necessity beyond which
thinking is superficial
and ideas are as cottonwood fluff
catching on tall sage bushes
in the lower valleys far downstream.
One doesn’t have to think hard to know
experience is merely rushing water
etching hollows in rounded boulders
and limit is only what you can see
and touch without thinking how and why
just as the icy stream shocks your hand
without reason.
Emily Strauss has spent many days and months as a solitary camper around the peaks and valleys of the West, and has observed them carefully. She is a retired teacher, self-taught in poetry, but she has over 60 poems in public in print and online, including recently in Brevity Poetry Review, Willow Wept Review, Forge, and Shot Glass Journal.


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