a literary journal published by the Black Earth Institute dedicated to re-forging the links between art and spirit, earth and society
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.
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.