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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

B.J. Buckley

B.J. Buckley
Above Bear Creek in Late Summer

There is something sweetly murderous in water.
This cataract white-roaring over bedrock
is laughter over bones – how a thing like cold silk
can crack quartzite to the marrow, crush
stone on stone like skulls of vanquished enemies, bury
in fine sediment the mayfly’s ephemeral winging. Here
earth’s table tipped – made for the river here
a cantilevered fractal stair, a bed of fault and shear this water
cannot rest in, an insomnia perpetually buried
and uncovered, loose rock cradle deadly rocking,
rocking, and the head of any sleep crushed
against fallen tamarack. From every overhanging shelf, silk-
soft moss depends, wind is the rustle of stiff silk
in a greeny dark. Small insects rise, winging here
with the impudence of angels above the crush
of a thing that wants to be wide and still and cannot, water
in this wild descending pool and drop, pool and drop, rock-
eting headlong, and there is nothing it would not be glad to bury.
But the land falls, too. Stonecrop gives way to hawthorn and sarvis berry,
meadow rue and potentilla, horse tail rush as old as cycads. The silk
belaying lines of unseen spiders thread the stream, and rocks
hide caddis-house, hellgramite, the larva of ephemerella. Her-
ons feed in the light of early morning; cows come, soft ships, to take on water,
ballast against the sinking heat of afternoon. Each hoof crushes
wintergreen and hare bell, pugs the bank, crushes
gooseberry and wild geranium, buries
new shoots of river birch and alder. In flood this water
will scour the hurt bank away, unspin the silken
networks of mycelia and root mass, will leave here
carrying again the burden of earth. Across the stream a yellow warbler rocks
its small body with singing, willing the rocks
to voice in answer – pebble-clatter, the melodious crush
of current loosing stones from muddy banks. Here
is the place where nothing and everything is buried,
where the lights of fish shine through the surface like fire behind oiled silk,
and the silence has a word in it – water,
water. Going under. The cold crush of it against held breath,
rocks silted over on the bottom as soft as dust over buried bones,
the slime-silk of leeches as they swim sweet across our bodies, here.
B.J. Buckley is a Montana poet and writer who has worked in Arts-in-Schools/Communities programs throughout the west for over 30 years. She is currently Writer-in-Residence for Sanford Arts, Sanford Cancer Center , Sioux Falls, SD; and is 2013-14 Artist-in-Residence at the Paris Gibson Square Museum of Art, Great Falls, MT. Her prizes and awards include a Wyoming Arts Council Literature Fellowship; The Cumberland Poetry Review’s Robert Penn Warren Narrative Poetry Prize; the Poets & Writers “Writers Exchange Award” in Poetry; the Rita Dove Poetry Prize from the Center for Women Writers, Salem College, Winston-Salem, NC; and the Joy Harjo Prize from CutThroat. She is the 2012 winner of the Comstock Review Poetry Prize. Her poems have appeared widely in print and on-line journals and anthologies, and two volumes of poetry. Her letterpress chapbook, “Spaces Both Infinite and Eternal,” is forthcoming from Limberlost Press, Boise, Idaho, in the Spring of 2013.


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