a literary journal published by the Black Earth Institute dedicated to re-forging the links between art and spirit, earth and society
As children, my sister and I disinterred the holy relic of a coyote’s skull and became its sacristans. Half-sunk in the sun-parched prairie, it rested mid-descent beneath the wired gaps of a neighbor’s split rail fence; here, my father surmised, the animal had enmeshed itself some spring and strangled in the spastic frenzy of disentanglement.
We exhumed Nature’s luckless martyr and installed its flesh-stripped head on the altar of a backyard swing. Desiccated flaps of leathern skin clung still to the cap, and a blackish smudge befouled cavities of naked bone within—the detrital stain of rotted soft tissues.
Lest decomposition discredit sainthood, we raided the laundry room closet, emptied a jug of stain remover into a bucket, and submerged the skull in a makeshift chemical reliquary. We hid the vessel beneath the porch and waited three days, though the acrid bath dissolved little, and the yellowed bone emerged oblivion’s emblem, all its particulate holiness swirling bleach-seared somewhere between the bucket’s bottom and the yucca-thorned field behind us.
We sulked uphill toward the neighbor’s fence-line, where I knelt and returned the skull in a gesture of boyish contrition, raking dry earth over the dome with my fingers as if to say, this is yours.
Nathan Manley graduated in 2015 with a master’s degree in English from the University of Northern Colorado. With equal measures of affection and frustration, he now teaches college composition. He’s an instrumentalist, and he writes music as he finds time to do so. He’s an audio engineer and an analog synthesizer enthusiast. His first chapbook, Numina Loci, is forthcoming from the Mighty Rogue Press. In the truly bizarre event that it should matter to you, his favorite color is green.
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