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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

John Aylesworth

East Wall Detail – Diego Rivera


After the glaciers left slashes and holes
in the cliffs, there were mastodons here
and people who left glyphs and arrowheads
in creek beds, black smudges under ledges
where they stayed at night with fire.
They must have laughed as sunlight
spilled through the pine forests on mornings
when they trudged up the ridges to hunt,
or wept when a baby died,
left in the rubble as they moved on.
They must have watched the mist and pink sky
settled along the hills’ raggedy edges
mornings and nights as the seasons changed.
They must have sung and remembered
as I do now, hunting and gathering,
searching the past for places I’ve been.



A troubadour chants Hank Williams songs
but only the children listen.
The parents drop dollars in the open guitar case
-tax deductions-
they’re busy searching for the perfect cabbage or pear.

Pioneers, they come from California
to mingle with the natives: Amish herbs
and remedies-flowers by Mel-Sally’s Pies-Will’s Bar B Q-
thirty booths of fruits and vegetables-
the Food Banks and other causes-
asking for dollars to help the helpless who survive

on deer meat and vegetables- organic-
raised in their backyards.

It’s the Greening of Appalachia, on an edge of the Rust Belt,
above dead coal mines in hills and hollows,
where locavores seek the soil that money can buy
-it’s organic-
and donate to pilgrims in old pick-ups each week.

Cars with careful carburetors instead of general motors
fill the parking lot, saving the Earth,
and bring home fresh vegetable medleys, home-grown beef,
gourmet mashed potatoes, fresh field flowers,
while the troubadour sings old songs,
dead songs maybe, for a dying planet- it’s organic-


Author Biography:

I live in the heart of the Rust Belt although it used to be called Appalachia. Poverty is nothing new here and the hills are really green: not brown and dusty.

John Aylesworth teaches kids with disabilities in the Hocking River Valley of southeastern Ohio. He earned an M.A. in Creative Writing and a PhD. in Comparative Arts at Ohio University and decided to stay in the hills and live with a beautiful woman, raise two sons, and take care of two dogs and a cat named Lucy.


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