a literary journal published by the Black Earth Institute dedicated to re-forging the links between art and spirit, earth and society
Spinning, the earth begins, shapes itself from fingers of shine, earth
spun on the hub of sun, small wet tongues
gleaming inside clay we learn to dig from earth’s wound
that must be repaired by forgiveness songs.
Earth carries us, heals our wounds rubbed raw from desire.
Buddhists say kill all desire. Fire
flares the same in any language,
gives birth to what we create.
Turtle rises on its clawed clay feet, luminescent
as algae in the top of a Pacific wave.
Passed down through generations of veneration, you incise
the Pueblo pattern into clay’s wet body
the way a tattooist scars skin to protect it.
Slap. Slap. Rising on the studio table, you teach
us to form vessels, a crennulated bowl
whose mouth opens to wind, to sky’s long wings.
Coils rise into a bowl whose smooth belly holds
constellations of eternity in its elegant flesh
the kiln could suddenly explode.
There is no unbreakable shape.
What spins could fly apart or adhere
like the idea of water pouring through the Milky Way.
Somewhere the ghosts of my people knead clay
dug from a river bed in spring, clay black
as the iris of an owl eye at midnight,
black as the bruised mouths of rifle barrels
in the hands of Bolsheviks who will murder them.
Fire will burn down their house.
I hear my Belarus great-grandfather, great-grandmother scream
through the stars, the crack of rifles at dawn, lead
shattering waistcoats, the simplest dress in their long ago house
burned to the revolutionary ground that ran red
far from the old stone teeth of these red cliffs.
From micaceous clay, you help a student
shape Matryoshka dolls.
They startle me, so far from home.
Each glittering doll nestles in the other’s heart.
Not one doll is empty, is guardian and refugee, identical
yet individual as the fingerprint of the potter
impressing prayers pulled from this shared earth.
Pam Uschuk has howled out six poetry collections, including CRAZY LOVE (American Book Award) and BLOOD FLOWER, 2015 Book List Notable Book. Translated into a dozen languages, her work appears in 300+ journals and anthologies. Her awards include New Millenium Poetry Prize, Best of the Web, Struga International Prize for a theme poem, Dorothy Daniels Writing Award (National League of American PEN Women). Editor of CUTTHROAT, A JOURNAL OF THE ARTS, Uschuk also edited the anthology, Truth To Power: Writers Respond To The Rhetoric Of Hate And Fear, 2017. Uschuk was named a Black Earth Institute Fellow for 2018–2021.