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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

Amie Irwin

Long Exposure Fireflies

Tell this bit of land we got what we’ll do on it, tell it

we got the tender, the touch, the hungry lick, barefoot


tumble through the sundown dim—wet grasses, basil sweat

and honey rush the skin, the tongue—


the dirt worked through


by our wildbone hands. Tell it we know how to follow

the yarrow, the roots, fig tree, pear tree to where they lay down


deep marrow in this flesh—our flesh. Tell it to send its small things past us,

past us like smoke empties from a jar, tell the tiny lightning bodies to


glint mica, spread borealis.


Slow it down now, light up the thicket, slow it down

light up our garden, light up the dark between the trees,


between the hours, between the days slowed down

by the carnal, cut-deep, never leave this born of body need


rolled in green


and want of days years decades clung to rib bone, decades

clung to these bodies these bodies on this come come and stay


here on this land,


this spoken to land.

Sardis Song


This road unwinds like a sinew.

like a mother loosened. Radio thick now

with the Judds & petal steel. Listen,

my daughters, the way to the lake

is made for the state of stray mind

& a lick of wild. And it crawls

delta slow, it narrows slower still

til it threads through the tree swarm

like a finger glides over the high end

of the guitar’s neck, yes, it rolls

baby girls, it rolls



I am no southerner. Only a lover

come late and ripened. Only a born-again fallen, not afraid

of the wander. My daughters—I will make for you

a Mississippi of my own. I will birth you over,

by my northern girth, my evangelical pubis,

this agnostic womb gathers you up again

and gives you this place to make your own—here where the field

speaks bitter and god-struck, here where the cottonfield is beautiful

as spoiled manna, here where the lakes are dirty

and dangerous, I gather you, I gather you & give you

this muck and mission



The lakes where I come from

are a colddeep clench. Glacial made

and trundled. Fingered, they say, like God

ran his hand through the earth there, searching out

the faith of his own flesh, his long keep

of Marcellus shale. It’s a cold

that cuts the lungs. It’s deep that strains

the blood. It will find you out. My Baptist family said doubt

does no good. But I say go,

when you can’t stay no longer.

Let no person

call you stranger



Sardis stretches like the draw of a single finger.

The finger of Roosevelt, his damn in the Tallahatchie.

It would be easy to reject the lakeness of this drowning.

It’s a swelter dammed-up, man-made thing, not belonging

to the land that sends the skirts of Cyprus trees up through its muck.

Yes, but that water, it hovers and holds. And it is holding

your wondrous bodies

as you swim



Your daddy and I loved each other hard and uneven. Your parents

of two houses now, but we made you ripe for the wander

and glisten. We made you quick for sprint

and leaving. And we made you to know,

when you find a place that wants you, you linger.

Long as you can, babies, long as you can. And the tenderness

you find there, is the blue we made you from, the lakes in us

we gave to each other. Listen, the god that matters

is in every cup of water



The road to the lake unwinds like a sinew,

like a mother loosened. The sun through the window

a hand on your forehead. That glint of the water

your memory of baptism. The road to Sardis

is how you belong

to place where you are.

It’s the feet of the daughters

in the sludge and the sand, red clay

in the hands, the streak & smear—their faces, the bread

and the blood, babygirl christsong, my daughters,

this endless cup, my daughters

swimming here, in Sardis.


Amie Irwin received her MFA from the University of Mississippi where she was the John and Renee Grisham Fellow in poetry. Her work has been published by Prairie Schooner. Currently, she’s an instructor of writing at U of M and a waitress at the Ajax diner in Oxford, Mississippi where she lives with her two daughters, Maggie and Jane.

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