a literary journal published by the Black Earth Institute dedicated to re-forging the links between art and spirit, earth and society
In the awkward silence while I decide
whether to nudge the conversation back
toward the next question in the script
or laugh My mother too,
a rooster crows outside that window
that is opaque to us both.
Nothing there but bighorn sheep
and roosters, and women who remember
their mothers’ battles.
This goes deeper than water, deeper
than water can eat into rock.
There was intention here, more corrosive
than the acids that scrape at our pipes.
It stains our sinks, whistles in our veins,
sings in our livers. Poisons the heart.
Our children won’t come to the table.
They stir in their sleep. When you
were a child, afraid to lie by yourself
in the dark, you asked your mother
for water. When you were the mother,
you brought the cool-skinned glass
for your child, and read a story
about the little fish in the darkened sea
who sleep with their eyes wide open.
Now be my guest. Spend the night
in my house. Turn on the tap.
Fill up your glass.
where a building has come down, a factory
or warehouse. He scythes a summer’s growth
of yarrow, culver’s root, wild aster, goldenrod—
bundling the stalks as if he had a barn full of cows
on the next block. Or the barn may be behind him
in the place he left when he set out for this city,
like the cultivators of small plots who bring their baskets
to my local market and claim in competing accents
that their peppers are the hottest, their bundled herbs
the sweetest. The house where this man was a child
is rubble now, but he’ll take home something
that smells of that place, and I have a paper bag
filled with thin green peppers that will make me cry.
Susanna Lang’s most recent collection of poems, Travel Notes from the River Styx, was released in June 2017 by Terrapin Books. Other collections include Tracing the Lines (Brick Road Poetry Press, 2013) and Even Now (The Backwaters Press, 2008) as well as a chapbook, Two by Two (Finishing Line Press, 2011). A two-time Hambidge fellow and a recipient of the Emerging Writers Fellowship from the Bethesda Writer’s Center, she has published original poems and translations from the French in such journals as Little Star, Prairie Schooner, december, Blue Lyra Review, Prime Number Magazine and Poetry East. Her translations of poetry by Yves Bonnefoy include Words in Stone and The Origin of Language. Among her current projects is Self-Portraits, a chapbook collection of ekphrastic poems focused on women across the arts. She lives in Chicago, where she teaches in the Chicago Public Schools.