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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 Camp

Our Imagined Beguilement

I look around and this country is handsome though we are howling

to stranger. Each day nearly curls again


with coyotes (ubiquitous!) clasping the bones of our future

mornings. When we must reckon, we apologize badly, phrase fireworks


as fire, and we see the lit-up world for a vow

we never wanted. No answer will lessen our preoccupations


so we divide our nights into segments and shame

at the crude water and tether and replication


of our bodies, each of us in our glancing quiet or looming

quavers, this awful year, seeing how casually against us


it leans in the law. We’re unhinged, and a lot of us

threaten to move anywhere sane: the fjords and cold roads, needing travel


tips to find home. They say it won’t help to be full of anger:

not now not until the ice melts until hell is more than living without.

Debates Against Homogeneity



Before it starts, we are willing to give our names

by the fistful. We package our sentences to volunteer

our locations, and live without questions. Don’t make us be less. What we do

before the wall is see the middle like a window. What we see

as it rises is our feet, bindweed seeding, teasel and purslane.

Above, the sun shifts, unkillable, in the migration of sky.




If we browse the turns before the turns

turn darker, we will have sung every corner of this rounded

city. When light still has instance we will have walked each dirt road

in company with fleeting strangers, talked as community

to the now-trembling ones. But we have lost our direction. Footprints

pass to shadows and seek a path far enough to follow.




Each controversy is a detail removed

from paradise. How do we hold who we are when a chair is denied

to those nearly tripping, the hearth from the people in cold

unsleeved, and from the most hungry a thick slice of meat? Gone

are the depths of our pleasures. We stay very empty,

stay quiet. Though inside we scream.




A sky on one side of the wall; the terrible air

and guilt, but still sky on the other. No one crosses. To find the will

to build a wall vast enough to crack apart, to raise such shade

on those near-verging on this country, to halt the banned ones

who carry unbearable their shadows—who are we if we can

betray such names and think it truth?


They told us what will be accomplished

& we had hunches: tension, trash bin, blindness.


Or they settled in with their primer and aftermath:

this & this & hunks of our ordinary lives.


We held signs with artful wounds

& shields & articulated

each chorus of what we should avoid. We said questions


no one answered. Not knowing, we made notes

in our beds with our bodies. Scraped & clicked

& our stories of their stories


were sarcastic. We cast side-eyed

because little else tore down the riddles.


We saw them in a catalog of masks.

We saw them put on their helmets.

We laughed in unsatisfactory ways


especially loud in our performance

& some of us burned

with exhaustion. When we woke, some of us hid.


We wouldn’t unclench. Wouldn’t pour out

of our glasses our fear


but we were brusquely positive they were

killing our meadows.


The day it happened there were such winds.


Those winds pressed forward. You wouldn’t believe

all the versions that the sky blew that day

and those many that followed.


Lauren Camp is the author of three books, including One Hundred Hungers (Tupelo Press), which won the Dorset Prize. It was also a finalist for the 2017 Arab American Book Award and the Sheila Margaret Motton Prize. Her poems have appeared in New England Review, Poetry International, Third Coast, Beloit Poetry Journal and the Academy of American Poets’ Poem-a-Day. Other literary honors include the Margaret Randall Poetry Prize, the Anna Davidson Rosenberg Award, and prizes from RHINO and Western Humanities Review. She is a Black Earth Institute Fellow, a staff writer for Poets Reading the News, and the producer/host of “Audio Saucepan” on Santa Fe Public Radio, a program that interweaves music with contemporary poetry.

Other works by Lauren Camp »

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