a literary journal published by the Black Earth Institute dedicated to re-forging the links between art and spirit, earth and society
of stacked up black bones
to climb the living dead
to rise above his own salvation.
He wanted muscle and limbs
blood and wombs, wanted to reach
above the dark soil to become a god
But his mouth was a scar
and his chest a deep hole
there was no heart in him.
The scar and the hole
carried him through
the great war that was
a cleaving. He fell through
a door in the earth, fell
straight through the unhealed
line of history.
The black bones heard his cries
bellowing across the dry husk
of fields and the scar led his two feet
across the broken stalks and the rocks.
His voice was what the children
heard in their dreams, those sold
off, far from their mother’s breast.
His voice was the beast that
growled behind the lightning
and the cold that rained down
from the sky.
And the men, whose bones
he picked, and the women, whose
marrow he sucked, wailed his
name in the wind. And the sound
filled the air above the old stone
monuments, as if a song and a prayer
were paths their lives could follow
back to land.
And the children, blessed children
the arm babies and the knee ones,
the not quite lost their baby fat ones
shimmered in the air, drifting like
black dandelion seedlings
above the red dust.
Once on the cobblestone path
along the river, I heard a terrible moan
and I stood back to see what the dead
might bring, but no sorrow walked
out of the dark water.
No weeping of rotted flesh
or clumps of pain-soaked hair
no haints shining like a prophet
climbing from the river banks
with a vision too unholy to tell.
Instead, driftwood, an old tree
bent like an outstretched hand
hope floating across the waters.
The future traveled
past the endless journey of fear
ancestors calling from the deep
returning from the far reaches
where men once dreamed the world flat
and time dreamed it round again.
Sheree Renée Thomas is a Memphis-based poet, short fiction writer, and editor whose work has appeared in or is forthcoming in Ghost Fishing: An Eco-Justice Poetry Anthology (University of Georgia Press), The Ringing Ear (University of Georgia Press), Apex Magazine, Strange Horizons, Transition, and Callaloo. Her short story collection, Sleeping Under the Tree of Life (Aqueduct Press) was longlisted for the 2016 James Tiptree, Jr. Award and was honored with a Publishers Weekly Starred Review. Shotgun Lullabies (Aqueduct Press) was described as a “revelatory work like Jean Toomer’s Cane.” She serves as the Associate Editor of Obsidian: Literature & Arts in the African Diaspora (Illinois State University, Normal).