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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

Madronna Holden & David Wolfersberger

David Wolfersberger painted these images on his 3500-mile bicycle tour of the West Coast undertaken after he found himself homeless. Inspired by his archetypal journey and the paintings of places central to her own life, Madronna Holden wrote a poem in response to each of them. The three selections here are from the 75 paintings/poems in Going the Distance, which Wolfersberger and Holden are planning to publish as a book.


rockies east of santa fe the rockies of northern new mexico • in new mexico and on the reservations you can see horses running free, which is charming. dogs also run free here, which is less charming since their favorite game seems to be “bite the bicyclist.”

rockies of northern new mexico

in new mexico and on the reservations you can see horses running free, which is charming. dogs also run free here, which is less charming since their favorite game seems to be “bite the bicyclist.”


Chasing Wheels

The mountains turn
On their own wheels
Of dawn and dusk,

They don’t need to chase our wheels.

Neither do their foothills
Where the earth expresses
Its initial appetite for heaven.

(It will go on hungry
That way until it reaches
The top of the world).

On the plains below
The teasel does its royal best
To please with its crown of purple,
And dandelion seeds float
Our breath before the sun—
Those who deem these weeds
Forget how we ourselves
First set them here
Beside us.

The horses we corral
Won’t ask us where to run
If we turn them loose
(We can only watch them
Step on the sky as they
Rear toward freedom.)

But what story
Can we give the wild dogs
(So used to our voices)
Who have not forgiven
Our spinning wheels?

They will continue
Biting at our heels
Until we tell stories
Good enough for the mountains
And the horses and the weeds—
Good enough for all wild things—
Including those released
From our own chains.

burned forest burned areas on the way to recovery have been friends. often they’re free of the KEEP OUT & NO TRESPASSING* signs that decorate the roadsides here in the Land of the Free. select of these markers i translate COME ON IN & TRESPASSING STRONGLY ENCOURAGED, and so far haven’t had a hassle. even the bear could have had me if he-she’d wanted, but didn’t seem inclined to an argument. we were close enough to shake hands, but he-she didn’t seem inclined to that either. *and my least favorite, GOVERNMENT PROPERTY. kiss my ass, we’re the people.

Pitching your tent in the ashes

This is the ground you claim:
Softened by ash under a red sun.
It is your chosen place
For looking up at the stars—
Where no one may cover your eyes
Or tell you to move on
To some smaller sky.

I won’t complain about the fire
That created your refuge:
Lightning will strike
And we cannot push it back
Into its pocket of the sky.
There will be fire—
Even terrible fire—
And things will get burnt.

(And if it takes fire
To clear our way,
So be it.)

And as for your anger—
Every scorched life
Must give rise to blisters

There is a taste of redemption
In what you have snatched from the embers,
Painting the downed forest
In such unapologetic blacks and browns
Sitting with one another
In resolute beauty.

There is left only this:
How smoke has dragged
Your voice across barbed wire—
Where it may decide to keep it.

avenue of the giants 10am wed 18 june

Painting from Memory

You are painting from memory
Older than salt.

You suspected all along
We each have another name
Than human: a name the soil whispers
With our careful or not-so-careful
Steps on the seeds that sleep there.

A name known by the sun
That collects our thoughts
As it touches our heads
Until it strokes them white
At last.

Every road we take
Keeps the memory
Of our choices. (Even now
The river is gathering light
To remember on our behalf).

What might that river’s willow-sister
Teach us– remembering herself
So well she regrows whole
From her broken pieces?

And what memory
Does the giant redwood
We once leaned against
Keep of our momentary

Behind the layers of bark
That steady our backs
Runs the sap of life,
Remembering how
To bring home the rain
That slakes our thirst,
How to turn the sun
To the sugar that feeds
Our hunger.

Who is it, then,
Leaning spine to spine
Against the great stillness
Of this upward-thrusting soul–
The painter or the painted—
The weaver or the woven?

If only we might remember ourselves
As well as the world does!


After selling out the prints of his paintings to benefit a local food bank in Eugene, Oregon, David Wolfersberger has moved to a Buddhist organic farm eight miles outside Ann Arbor, Michigan—where he is still biking—now into town to obtain supplies. Madronna Holden is living in Eugene, where she has redesigned her yard as an urban garden. She is a folklorist/storyteller whose poetry has been published in American Writing, Northwest Magazine, The Christian Science Monitor, Fireweed, and Green Fuse, among others. The community production of her full-length drama in poetry, The Descent of Inanna, was the subject of an Oregon Public Broadcasting special. Recently retired from teaching at Oregon State University, she is taking the opportunity to focus on her poetry.

Other works by Madronna Holden »

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