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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

Jnana Hodson

South Wall



any snag of sidetrack

grain elevators,
auto parts factories

settled on rails, more than rivers
with land so flat it squeals

apart from this
nothing to stop the running eye

pig iron castings / coils of rolled steel
on flatbed trucks grumbling through town

it’s organize, militantly, or
50-hour workweeks at scab pay

Tank City Road, Oil City Road
of jerry-built city

Junkyard on the Prairie

the blast furnace tower
the tallest structure in town
overshadows the courthouse
or even the hospital
each dwarfing
both downtown banks
and the dry goods store

maybe it was plotted in 1850:
River Street, Water Street,
Main Street, Main Cross,
Railroad, Center, Market

pious storefronts
but keep their names
out of the police news


mile after mile of repeated farms and crossroads
rails stretch into an unending vanishing point

level as the skin of a drum
where forested swamp once reigned

Greek Revival mansions
“millionaire farmers retired to town
after selling the farm”

“been prosperous too long
all it needs is
four good fires”

a primary election and a tornado
plastic flowers blown into ditches and bushes
the other side of highway
from the cemetery

ghastly blossoms that won’t die


the pink house with green shutters
in a hole-of-holes

drivers who race through red lights or
white trash with a law degree

winter, when skies are as smooth-clouded
as the muddy fields

“we were men to the extent
we stood against the horizon”



under its billowing clouds, the smokestacks
or the stench

foundry, factory, assembly line, mill

seeping oil / rainbow snaking on black earth
litter in weeds along a culvert
parking lot behind hurricane fencing topped
with concertina wire

a guardhouse

layer of grit on the windshield

young farmers working nightshifts
to pay for their land

turning out crankshafts or tires



every day, I walked the same two blocks
somehow always varied where
Doc drove and saw nothing but traffic lights

the Foster Block, 1856, coming down
could have been renovated, fine detailing
and history, gone now

“I don’t understand
how some of these businessmen stay open
they have nothing in their stores
they do nothing to make the town better”

Friday nights, the scared-eyed immigrants
came to town, trains of children in tow
stared at the windows and spoke Spanish

“the grandfather used to say”
her own grandmother continued

red or gray stains drawn by buttermilk into grain
since painted over

that feeling of baby bones
in an old man
but more brittle

blue-green trees at the far end of the field
breaking the deflated vision

I couldn’t imagine ocean or tide here


Author Biography

Jnana Hodson is a native of Ohio who has lived in three quadrants of the state. Jnana would argue that the rust belt includes devastated Upstate New York as well. He is the author of two published novels – Subway Hitchhikers and Ashram – and his poems, stories, and essays have appeared in journals on four continents. He blogs at Jnana’s Red Barn (


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