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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

David B. Prather

Book Scorpion

—Chelifer cancroides



No more than twelve-point typeface,

a body the size of a W, or less,

there is still a fierceness


among these words. Aristotle

pulled back his hand

when he found these bugs


among scrolls, parchment

unfurled to skitters and pincers.

It could be letters rearranging,


sounds and syllables. It could be

a threat of war, fathers weeping

over the bodies of children,


mothers searching the burning

frames of their homes. Hidden

somewhere on a dark shelf


is a book holding paragraph

after paragraph of history.

It has that musty smell of age


like the volumes of encyclopedias

tucked into a corner

in my grandparents’ basement.


One tome had pictures of people

in a battle-scarred land, the edges

of pages yellowed and raggedy,


chewed upon by an unseen pest.

Maybe a pseudoscorpion

raised its claw the size of a comma


to defeat these mites that came

to destroy the past. Yesterday,

I read that there are 1.4 billion


bugs to every single person,

some so small they might as well be

dust illuminated during an autumn


afternoon by rays of sunlight slanting

through a window. Someone, I hope,

is there with a book opened


to ancient philosophy, sigma

crawling across the page,

a predator in the language.

Wooly Bear Caterpillar

—Pyrrharctia isabella



Do you confer with hornets
for a glimpse of the future?

I’ve been told to expect a hard winter

when they build high, the gray globes,

their homes, clinging to upper branches.

They look like papier-mâché human hearts

among leaves that are destined to fall,

dangling and decaying with the season.
Or do you just feel your way along the sidewalk


measuring sunlight and shadows?
And do they color your body, brown

and black for prophecy?

What witchery do you employ?

I thought my great grandmother magical

when she held you and declared we make ready

for storms, for the ashen weight of clouds
to hang from branches and stems that grow


wild and tangled across the firmament.
The stars, she said, were the signals of bugs,

see how they flicker their messages.

She spoke to fireflies and yellowjackets,

to June bugs and cicadas. She said

snow’s going to come down in swarms,

because you told her so, those thick, dark
stripes across your body. Ants predict rain.
Crickets sing of good days to come. And bees


don’t roam far if winds are on the way.
I never knew you sealed yourself into

a bristly cocoon, waited out the weather.

I never knew you emerged as a tiger moth.

I hope one day to while away the season,

my body transforming into something

with wings. I tell you it will be
a grave and grievous winter.


David B. Prather is the author of We Were Birds (Main Street Rag Publishing, 2019). He has two other poetry collections forthcoming: Shouting at an Empty House (Sheila-Na-Gig Editions, 2023), and Bending Light with Bare Hands (Fernwood Press, 2024). His work has appeared in many journals, including Prairie Schooner, The Comstock Review, Potomac Review, etc. He lives in Parkersburg, WV.

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