Please help the Black Earth Institute continue to make art and grow community so needed for our time. Donate now »

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

Gretchen Primack

Tubercled Blossom

Firmly muscled and lightly mussed

in their pearl, a must


for millennia, a tired number of millennia,

a tired number of mussels, as glad


as we are

to be in the world.


And the patience! Kissing halves

calcified tough in calcium and slick,


native in a way I am not,

endangered in a way


I am not, class bivalvia

unlike me, phylum Mollusca


unlike me, kingdom Animalia

like you.


Highly impearled, highly imperiled,

muscled hearts keening my heart,


stone blossoms hinged and mantled

and finely fibered—


suddenly unhoused,




suddenly silted out of the world.

May I, the unendangered—


may my mighty species, weak

hair, grey teeth, cut skin—


may I


What Not Ours

When I asked my grandmother how her day was, she’d say,

“I had to kill them little chickens. I had to kill them little chickens.”

—Kiese Laymon


—and if we threw the lever, stilled

the line, righted their clasped flapping

selves, cooled the scalding tanks,

buried the knives, held each body

to a damp ground, to seeds

and roosts, Fall in her damp

brown dress calling for roosts and seeds,

feathers as protection, gloss, veins contoured

and valued on her neck, wings stretched and loved

at her sides, wings splendid and muscled

for the stretch, her breast’s red heart snug

in its beat, her cells knit into the fibers of her

for her life’s work,

that  not  ours—


Gretchen Primack is the author of Kind, republished by Lantern Books in 2021; Visiting Days (Willow Books Editors Select Series, 2019); and Doris’ Red Spaces (Mayapple Press, 2014). She also co-wrote, with Jenny Brown, the memoir The Lucky Ones: My Passionate Fight for Farm Animals (Penguin Avery, 2012). Her poems have appeared in The Paris ReviewPrairie Schooner, FIELD, PloughsharesPoet Lore, Massachusetts Review, and other journals and anthologies. Primack has administrated and taught with college programs and poetry workshops in maximum-security prison for many years, and she is a proud indie bookseller at The Golden Notebook Bookstore in Woodstock, NY.

©2024 Black Earth Institute. All rights reserved.  |  ISSN# 2327-784X  |  Site Admin