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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

Jocelyn Casey-Whiteman


I’m happiest when they let me alone. I can wriggle

in the film of water coating a leaf or safely squirm in a cushion of moss.

I find places people miss. Slow-stepper, water bear, moss piglet


you might call me hideous with my rolls of flesh, balloon body,

mechanical snout, but my half millimeter of being has evolved for centuries

to withstand the prodding of this place, has preserved under the pressure


of even the lowest ocean.

When the world is harsh and desert-dry, I curl

into a circle, draw head and limbs in. Sugar fills my cells


to make a matrix, glass-like, that won’t wither under the harm

of heat, won’t dissolve until rain returns.

The ones who peer at us in tiny ponds they call Petri


once sent me to space where I lived through a terrible vacuum—

the stars were too close, too cold, what did they want?—

I knew to go dormant, float


until we returned to the place with up and down.

What you cannot imagine, I’ve endured.

I can wrap my DNA in a cloud to shield from cosmic and X-rays.


Maybe someday, I’ll develop a protein to protect me from the humans

and their need to know. They say I will survive until the sun dies.

For now, I roll into a ball, let myself be carried by a zephyr wind.


The tortoise wakes under a cathedral.

For months she’s needed nothing

but coolness, solitude, rest.


Hunger shut off with autumn’s first frost.

Beneath the dirt, the surface of her shell

resembles Raphael’s honeycombed arches


in The School of Athens under which

philosophers point towards sky and earth.

The tortoise is in a world within a world.


What is it like to be so still your breath can pause?

Like a tree, she grows another set of rings

each year she survives the wild.


Now, feeling the thaw, she reaches up:

legs, nails, her ancient head nudging the earth.

The slow dig begins.


Jocelyn Casey-Whiteman a poet and educator. She is author of the chapbook Lure, which received a New York Chapbook Fellowship from the Poetry Society of America. Her poems have appeared in Boston Review, Poetry Ireland, Verse Daily, and elsewhere. She teaches writing at Parsons University and mindful movement at The Connective.

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