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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

Lilace Mellin Guignard

Back When Saving the World was Easy

—for my daughter on her tenth birthday, Feb. 10, 2017


When it was only a matter of dodging asteroids

or surviving the plague. When the inquisitions

no one expects and the battles no one forgets

faded into other crises. Back before I was born,

and somehow everything survived.

Well, Camelot crumbled, but the next year

there rose the Civil Rights and Wilderness Acts.

Then King was dead, long live the dream,

and there was me, the nukes, and the Russkies.

But once again, mushrooms became almost

only food, not clouds.


After I made it through the Cold War and

high school simultaneously, I basked

in the sure glow of Roe v. Wade, worried more

about chip mills invading Southern softwoods

than the government marching jack boots

through my body. I mean down there.

Having children seemed like a good idea,

though the population boom needed attention.

Soon so did the climate.


Then a thunderbolt of justice hit in the time of BP—

Black President and oil spill—and I told my kids

Americans are free to love whom they love.

My 8 yr. old asked, “Is it like how blacks

and whites couldn’t use to marry?” She smiled

at my nod. “I can hardly wait to see how much

fairer the world gets when I grow up.”


Never forget, Love, it almost happened.

We have t-shirts and magnets to remind us

of cheering with Gramma, of being eager to vote.

Oh Little Human, star of my dark heart,

it once seemed simple. But now strong women

retreat to the woods from a nightmare

worse than any of your infancy. Few are sleeping well.

I know I must fight & believe & dream like those

before me, but, goddamn, it was easier to save the world

back when I  was the one wearing flowered

frocks that twirled, back when I was child,

not mother. But it’s my turn, and I will.

Death, Angels, All Practicing

When my daughter falls from her bed

it is death practicing its quick grab

and as always (so far) missing.

She’s too quick for you, quick quack

patty-whack, you’ll get no bone from her!

Social even in sleep, she doesn’t want

to lie down alone. Once a week

our dreams entangle, the sharp edges of hers—

those little cries—dig into me like the toenails

that unwittingly knead my calf. The dish

ran away with the spoon full of sugar

and now only me in her twin bed one night

in seven can make the medicine go down.

“We talked about the end of the world,”

she reports of Sunday School the week

her teacher missed. Joining the older kids

had been a revelation. I don’t care who you are,

God, I know there’s a girl worth saving

the world for, and her heart is an Achilles heel

held in my slippery hand. I don’t care whose

God you are, Man, I know canyons and rivers

and gnarled roots of dying trees worth

changing our ways for. And, God, I know

words and lines and books as beautiful

as my daughter’s faith, but none of them

is worth dying or killing for. That’s why

once a week I sleep scrunched with a light on,

so if she jerks awake from almost falling

she’ll see whose hands have grabbed her.


Lilace Mellin Guignard lives with her husband and two children in rural Pennsylvania, where she teaches creative writing, women’s studies, and outdoor recreation leadership at Mansfield University. Her poetry has appeared in journals and anthologies, including Poetry magazine. She has published a poetry chapbook “Young at the Time of Letting Go,” and her prose book “When Everything Beyond the Walls Is Wild” about being a woman outdoors in America is forthcoming from Texas A&M Press.

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