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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

Paul Eric Johnson


time and space are but the physiological colors which the eye maketh
Ralph Waldo Emerson


Embrace the weather, chase the light. As shadow creeps up the river valley walls, keep driving higher until the fading sun reflects off a lonely white meeting house. Find a remembrance of the religious fervor long found along the Connecticut. Here, near where captives en route to Quebec from the Deerfield raid of 1704 were first allowed to pause on Sabbath.The redeemed captive returning to Zion
Experienced in a timespace between the revolutionary Bicentennial and settlement Quatercentenary, Reimagine New England is an idea finding inspiration in the essence of this place, often its history, use, or environmental and political concerns – usually awarenesses or perceptions involving a consciousness when photographing.
In the moment of place, time is both a past remembered and the future’s constant becoming. With immersion, the sun’s a clock, so I avoided the suffocation of placing four room corners around my head each night. It’s an instinctive way to decide where to go and what to look for, and even as that strangely became more difficult, I could feel a first intimidation of climate change. Thoreau said he went to the woods because he wanted to live deliberately. With patience and amid that closeness, in all New England I find a home, the mountains to the sea only a comforting distance. It’s a beautiful place with a history of conflict, and determination.

The images and poems: a selection

Tide flat, Eastham, Cape Cod.
Appalachian Trail, Mount Guyot, White Mountains National Forest.
Leach Pond, Borderland State Park, Massachusetts.
Rockingham Meeting House, Vermont.
Newagen Harbor, Southport Island, Maine.
Fort Point, South Boston.
High horse entry, Maidstone, Vermont.
Old Deerfield, Massachusetts.
Striped maple, Weld, Maine.
Carter Notch, White Mountains National Forest.
Bell tower, Pemaquid Point, Maine.


Paul Eric Johnson is a photographer, master printer, and writer. His photography has been published and exhibited throughout the world, and represented by the Liaison and Getty agencies. Two travel books, Lighthouses of the Mid-Atlantic Coast and Backroads of New Jersey have been published by Voyageur Press. Originally a biology teacher, early multi-media work including The Concord Conscience and A Natural History were made possible with numerous local, state and federally supported grants and residencies. His work has also been recognized in Mastering Digital Printing by Muska & Lipman, and by Polaroid, Kodak, Fijifilm, and Ilford. He maintains the private Associate v. – the Gallery at Lake Hopatcong in New Jersey. Paul is a native of Massachusetts >


little neck
on the half shell
Ben Franklin
at the Union Oyster House
short rake and bull

beneath a rippling surface
primitive life in the mud
filtering the seas for sustenance
ebb and flow
a moment of the sun and moon
neap and spring

power and status
currency of the fur trade
two quarts fried
my lunch at the Dairy Queen




Appalachian Trail, Mount Guyot, White Mountains National Forest. Photo by Paul Eric Johnson.

forest primeval
montane boreal
red spruce and balsam fir
hiking in the closeness
through the mists of clouds
as an errand into the wilderness

lichen beards collect
a drop falls
cushiony damp the sphagnums
elfin shining club forest
a lush carpet
upon rounded mountain boulders

quick in a darkening gloom
primitive the stillness
magical realm of wolf and catamount
soft turn the trail
thumping a spruce grouse




Leach Pond, Borderland State Park, Massachusetts. Photo by Paul Eric Johnson.

tenuous the traces
to disappear at a sun breath
fragile is the balance
of an Ice Pond remembrance
cross-handled saws cut
steamy horse teams toil
under the weight of necessity
pure childhood joy
the free flight of skating
above the moment
lands with a bump




 Rockingham Meeting House, Vermont. Photo by Paul Johnson

A is for Adam

alone upon a hill the meeting house
sunset shimmering window lights
reflect a stern face

New Light revival
is an angry God jeremiad
Old Light fading rectitude
jealousy and wealth
is a house of seven gables

busy in the valley below
the Williams drops to meet the Connecticut
once a Sabbath sermon there
Lamentations on leaving Deerfield
so sing us one of Zion’s songs
captives redeemed or chosen savagery




 Newagen Harbor, Southport Island, Maine. Photo by Paul Johnson

in the calm before a perfect storm ● an abundance of Sea-Fish almost beyond beeleeving ● jigging in a fog bank ● long lines set from dories ● Gloucester’s courageous ● Friday’s a fish fry take-out ● tartar sauce and loran fish-finders ● otter trawls and factory fleets ● Magnuson Acts ● FedEx the cove a relic of the marine railway ● dogfish the daily catch ● a pipe-smoking Old Salt white-bearded in a yellow slicker ● Legal Sea Foods Boston Fish Exchange ● just legal size don’t stand a chance ● caught in the crossfire of a Matinicus trap war ● sector rules ● days at sea ● ocean floor a scarred desert ● close George’s and the Grand ● skate and shark a bloody mess on the dock ● cat food and fish sticks ● boat buy-backs catch shares bycatch ● aquaculture low impact gear ● a Sacred Cod still hangs opposite the Speaker’s chair ● NOAA ● lobster boils and clam bakes ● buoy-bedecked decoration a Motif #1 ● on our watch re-imagine acres of flakes




 Fort Point, South Boston. Photo by Paul Johnson

Fall River                                                              Pawtucket Falls
Blackstone Canal                                               Merrimack River
Amoskeag Mills                                             American Woolens
Francis Cabot Lowell                                         Abbott Lawrence
in times mechanical
manufactory bells replace the sun
power spillways bobbins spindles wind
operatives flyers whizz buzz hiss warp
lords of the loom boardinghouse rules
mill girls worth their cunning hands
wage cuts piece work speed ups
turn out a Lucy Larcom girlhood
City of Immigrants
Holyoke                                                                              Haverhill
Waltham                                                                         Waterbury
Elizabeth Gurley Flynn                                               Carlo Tresca
Bread                                                                                       Roses
A.F.L.                                                                                        C.I.O




 High horse entry, Maidstone, Vermont. Photo by Paul Johnson

a life is lived within a walking distance
where villages are a horse and buggy apart
the general store has big doors but few shelves
a high bay barn with modern gambrel fits more hay
when dashing the trotter passes to cut a racer’s Figure
an arched neck stallion chestnut brown or bay
as the high-wheeled sulky leaves its wake of dust
diminished distance is the Genesee Fever of change
electrification refrigeration competition consolidation
the farmer covers silage with blue tarp and worn tires
in a new impatience the commuter’s reach increases
for the stressed flatlander’s escape a condo beckons
and the pace of the rural gets lost in the speed zone




 Old Deerfield, Massachusetts. Photo by Paul Johnson

three sisters
women raise rich mounds of earth
plant precious seed with alewives for growth
after sprouting add beans to climb the stalks
squash matures below in the cooler shade
seed corn
heavy laden woven baskets
buried in the Nauset sands of early winter
a discovery for the weary Separatists
hungry from a long sea voyage
seeds of war
the Bloody Brook runs red
livestock trample the fenceless fields
steal the cattle kill the thief
altered and patented
high fructose food manufactories
GMO pollen drift
corn maze




 Striped maple, Weld, Maine. Photo by Paul Johnson

sweet blueberries ripen the first week of August
on the slopes of Tumbledown Mountain
near a sleepy corner on the washboarded road to Coos
where the reforested valley was first settled
Mountain View proclaims above a freshly painted white iron gate
enclosing scattered rows of limestones and monuments
with gray weathered urns and epitaphs
at a mapped town road only as wide as its cartwheel tracks
to a bygone farmstead of tumbled rock foundations
relics of the forgotten in the brown rust of half–hidden machinery

Tumbledown Field
how familiar was the cathedral grove
where under a broken pine canopy grows a tangled blackberry patch
and comfortably thick was its needled mattress
but moving fast the skidder’s rampage is no match
as the North Woods has all changed hands
the Tumbledown tradition is now a forest disturbed
for my old camp the place and time has passed
and tumbling fall the crisp striped maple to duff a deep topsoil
awakened melancholy bright in the warm filtering October sun




Carter Notch, White Mountains National Forest. Photo by Paul Johnson

small world of
melting glaciers
rivulets refreezing
snowfall anew
essential intricacies
upon a crumbling stone




 Bell tower, Pemaquid Point, Maine. Photo by Paul Johnson

Doc Jones radio
getting ready for school
the Eastport to Block Island forecast
so this is where I come from
my place
yellowtail off Gray Gables
two lemon doughnuts at Sully’s
Saco and Vanzetti out my factory window
and WPRI’s Salty Brine
when I get back home


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