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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

Jane Satterfield

Luminous Crown

I’m dressed with light by day, doused with sunshine

and sometimes rain, finch song, the trill of mockingbirds.


When storms muscle up the coast, watch me stand rooted—

I’ll bend and sway, go straight again, companionable


in the canopy, bolstered by the charm of countless unseen tethers.

You should know my portion of the forest floor is a forum


for shared communications, a network of vital nerves

for moods and messaging, deep-dives down through the fungal


filaments. Bark’s tough but still a skin that breathes, sends out songs

picked up by the finest sensors—a tune for storms


and shifts in seasons, drifting snow or dropping leaves.

Today I saw a heron glide overhead, straight through a violet dusk.


You’d be surprised by what turns up—the cardinal, red plume

of paint across the field, a snakeskin unfurled beside the gravel path


along a lawn trimmed back from the wild. I think I’m still learning

to hear a coyote’s call, how it differs from the fox. I love how


each will tack toward the edge of any setting, the flicked tells

of their tails a distraction for these darker days of tipping


point and carbon sink. Listen, once I was luminous—

fireflies flared their cold light through a dark so profound


you couldn’t rinse from my crown their countless falling constellations.

Parable for Rewilding

Acrobats of dried thistle stems

twirling upside down to forage


for seed & also known by their bouncing

flight—goldfinches are a glitter of plumage


in lemon, chartreuse, crayoned sun, bright mustard,

absinthe—end of season arrivals & deft


architects lashing cup nests to shaded branches

with spider silk, weaving twig walls


with fluffed down so hatchlings can easily feed.

Let the hawk hang at its height or sever


the sky with the knife-edge of its wing—the trills

of each mated goldfinch pair form


a unique flight song. Vaxxed & vexed, masked

& distancing again, neighbors call


across the fence. Our sunset’s a smoky haze

that also maps wildfires churning


through the west. Down the street someone’s

posted signs that read Be Kind, Hold


on to Hope. I read of shifting flyways & other warming

trends—the finned, the furred, the feathered—


so many vanishings. If, a century ago

you’d seen a school lawn shudder


as dandelions uprooted, swayed and then morphed back

into bird-shapes, or listened to an unexpected melody


as several hundred goldfinches gathered within your gaze—

you’d know why a flock was named a charm.

Summoning the Nightjar

is simple for the mystical at heart.

If you’re lucky, at dusk,


you’ll catch an eerie call. Linger

in a soundscape where a minute’s


marked in nineteen-hundred notes: a rising

falling trill steady as a spinning wheel, a song


mechanical and strange, conjuring

the whir of some vintage sewing machine,


fine needle motored by a treadle. The nightjar

even looks uncanny, a small-billed, steely


creature that hunts at dusk and dawn,

its wide-mouth saucer-like and finely


bristled, a boon for snaring insect swarms.

The nightjar’s been a magnet for infernal


fears—in folklore, it’s bewitched, a spirit

wandering or worse—goatsucker hovering


near herds, spreading poison, stealing

milk from nanny goats…Feathered brown


and white, the nightjar blends with bark—

witchy camouflage that makes it seem all


the more elusive. The nightjar’s eggs are laid

and hatched to synch with a full moon. Stay


grounded—a white flag doesn’t always mean

surrender. One flick of a handkerchief will mimic


the courtly wing flash of a male’s display. Call forth

the nightjar before it vanishes to forage among ferns.


Jane Satterfield has published five poetry books, including The Badass Brontës, a winner of the Diode Editions Poetry Prize, Apocalypse Mix, Her Familiars, and Assignation at Vanishing Point. She is the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts poetry fellowship, the 49th Parallel Award for Poetry from Bellingham Review, the Ledbury Poetry Festival Prize, and more. Recent poetry and essays appear in The Common, DIAGRAM, Ecotone, Interim, Literary Matters, The Missouri Review, Orion, Tupelo Quarterly, and elsewhere. Born in England, she lives in Baltimore, where she is a professor of writing at Loyola University Maryland.

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