a literary journal published by the Black Earth Institute dedicated to re-forging the links between art and spirit, earth and society
Approaching cautiously, the man in the white shirt
and blood-red tie makes any of a hundred
possible mistakes. His rational mind is almost
sure I won’t attack. Marooned here on the sun-
baked stones, I appear both docile and deceptive.
Perhaps I am.
He’s come to scrub my back with his long-handled brush.
I allow this as, for twenty-eight years, I’ve allowed
so many trespasses. This is for my own pleasure.
As if a thousand small birds treaded across my green-
knobbed back, these bristles lead me to the long half sleep
that’s been my life.
You could say it’s the nature of crocodiles
to live submerged, by which you mean drifting
through a world heavier and more ancient than air.
The slow heart sinks then wallows in a purgatory
of suspension. The incense of decay
clogs our nostrils.
But it’s in the mud I’ve grown to such longevity
that young girls string orchid garlands to wrap
my feet. The sun climbs into its white-hot zenith.
The voices of the crowd, full of nervous mammal
mannerisms, evaporate into a clear
I take it as a hymn of praise, as if living
long were the same as living well. My eyes
close in slow dreams. The melody sways over us
as caressing as palm frond shadows.
If they asked I would tell them that every respite
its own penance. But I forgo my judgment.
They bring me a cake and a chicken and I am blessed
with appetite. I swallow them both.
Chris Dahl hopes to cup a handful of murky pond-water and reveal another world half-hidden in this one. Her chapbook, Mrs. Dahl in the Season of Cub Scouts, was published after winning Still Waters Press “Women’s Words” competition. Her poems have been placed in a wide variety of journals—recently or forthcoming in San Antonio Review, Green Ink, Panorama: A Journal of Travel, Place and Nature, and The Main Street Rag—and she has had poems nominated both for Best of the Internet and a Pushcart Prize. She lives in Olympia, Washington where she serves on the board of the Olympia Poetry Network and edits their newsletter.