a literary journal published by the Black Earth Institute dedicated to re-forging the links between art and spirit, earth and society
Through copse of pine, the deer and I watch—
body of an otter, whiskered skiff skimming across
surface below sea cliff. This edge of continent.
Where deer content themselves to wander toward
waxy water, ears acting axis of alarm.
Antlers are the fastest growing living tissue.
Forked bone-crowns, still velvet, are reinventing
their reign as happens with each new year. The deer
meet soft ground with careful hooves as if
mythologies piled on their backs—weightless:
enchanted princess, messengers of gods, friend to saints.
We go on populating our tales—something to kill, something
to do the killing. And what if these creatures
before me now found, as I did, in the place
just back a hundred yards where the trees diffuse,
the skeleton of a deer taken down
by the mountain lion a season past? Nothing,
not even the very bones of who we are,
could change the rightness of this morning.
They crowded into my days, small and plentiful, chirping
from the garden trellis, motoring to and from the echeveria
flowers. I learned their language as you might any language:
by listening, copying, by pointing while they nodded and repeated
the words. They came whenever they could—they were busy,
barrelrolling through sunbeams, checking, checking on things.
Tiny mayors attending to their cities. We talked about
nicotania blossoms, how one holds the body apart
from what is being consumed. About azalea, bee balm, salvia.
We talked about redwoods and the traffic and cats.
I told them how I’d been thinking lately of Ireland and Tuscany
and they understood completely. Foxglove and lavender, they agreed.
We often mentioned wings and windows, debated the ideal length
of the tongue. Eventually I abandoned meals, messages that piled
unread, spent every minute in the garden hanging on their counsel—
iridescent monks practicing vows of constant motion.
All summer long they hummed, scrawling their signature
onto wide sky, nectar-driven teachers of song.
Rest. We wake and sleep by the natural light cycle, like you
once did. No use for eyelid, our dreamlife one of simple
drift from this glass world to another. How convenient
that light behaves like a wave—the ease of taking
into dreamwaters what we know from waking life—brilliant glow
of phosphorescence in red, yellow, green, slip of scene,
sweet scrim draped like a tail across the familiar. Our night
a superior peace, grace of story. I can tell what you were thinking—
that we watched a dreamfilm in black and white.
Sorry unfinned beast, committed as you are
to the spectrum of visible light, imagine for a moment
orgasmic chromatics, stage set in ultraviolet. Every organism
is schooled before birth in the stuff of stimuli, perhaps that’s why
you’re surprised at our capacity for belief, the way it rides a riverbed
beyond beauty, how we too can be fooled by illusions
of sight, things we thought would feed us but instead left us
gutted. Why else would we qualify as counsel unless we knew
what it was to be flawed, to make a choice then withdraw,
or become a martyr for a larger cause? Disappointed
it’s not instinct alone that churns our senses? Listen,
you’ve had a hard day, jostled in the shoal. Rest
from who you think you are. Find a cave, rock overhang. Sleep. Desire relaxed
is pleasure. Pelvic fin twitches like a heart-beat, keeps steady. Now,
look out to your cloud-marked sky, find a slit like a gill and breathe.
A poet with roots in spoken word, Kathryn Petruccelli holds an MA in teaching English language learners. Her poetry and essays have appeared in The Massachusetts Review, The Southern Review, Los Angeles Review, Tinderbox, Hunger Mountain, Sweet Lit, and elsewhere. She’s taught workshops for California Poets in the Schools, Mass Poetry, and Seattle’s Hugo House Youth Programs, as well as for adults online. As a tour guide at the Emily Dickinson Museum, Kathryn gets to spend days steeped in her favorite combination of story, voice, and place.