a literary journal published by the Black Earth Institute dedicated to re-forging the links between art and spirit, earth and society
My poems, lyrical essays, and photographs emerge from an immersive practice in which I write while riding each of the twenty-five New York City subway lines from end to end, walking through the neighborhoods at each terminal, and conducting historical research on select sections of the city.
A train to Inwood (Manhattan)
In Inwood Hill Park, near the spot where Sarah Fox’s body was found in 2004, reward signs look for clues that may lead to the arrest of her murderer. Her body was found strewn with tulip tree petals.
Native to New York, the tulip tree’s flowers are bright yellow with an orange flare at the base. They say it was under Manhattan’s largest tulip tree in what is now Inwood Hill Park that Peter Minuit bought the island from the Lenape. A park ranger tells us the Lenape were moved to Canada somewhere and Oklahoma. A boulder now sits in a tree’s place labeled Shorakkopoch.
the wading place, the sitting down place, between the ridges
Some years ago, someone chopped down trees in the park with an ax. Maybe a machete. Authorities called it arborcide, the act of a serial tree killer. Chopped down and left to rot. Bitternut hickory, some pines, the red oak. A Kwanzan cherry, some sugar maples, the hackberries.
Whether connections of consequence or not, a fabric.
In 2012, authorities linked DNA from the site of Sarah Fox’s murder to DNA on a chain used by Occupy Wall Street protesters. They had used it to prop open the gates of the Beverly Road subway stop. Free rides in response to fare hikes and service cuts. The DNA was later found to be that of the lab technician who had worked both cases.
To be in possession of evidence, a chain of custody.
The New York City subway system’s Metropolitan Transit Authority is a public benefit corporation, run by the state. The MTA “floats” bonds to borrow money it needs for capital projects. It’s called floating because if no one buys the bonds, they sink. Banks underwrite the debt. To underwrite is to write your name under a line that lists the amount of risk you are willing to take. It gets paid back with interest.
To inscribe a city into lines so as to understand the living of such a city.
The condition of living is debt.
What survives inside or in spite of the systems sustaining its conditions.
Susan Landers’ most recent book, Franklinstein, is a multi-genre collection about a Philadelphia neighborhood wrestling with the legacies of colonialism, racism, and capitalism. She is also the author of two books of poetry—248 mgs., a panic picnic and Covers. Her chapbooks include 15: A Poetic Engagement with the Chicago Manual of Style and What I Was Tweeting While You Were On Facebook. Her poetry has appeared in The Brooklyn Rail, The Offing, The Philadelphia Review of Books, The Chicago Review, and elsewhere. She was a 2018 artist in residence at PLAYA Summer Lake and a 2015 resident fellow at Saltonstall Colony for the Arts. She has an MFA from George Mason University and lives in Brooklyn, where she is working on a collection of poems about riding every New York City subway line end to end.