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