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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

Michael Garrigan

Dead Elk Wonders Where His Body Is

The light that is not from here

sometimes crawls across the ridges

and busies itself all night

never reaching that far

but always catching

always demanding.


One morning he woke without muscle

and an itch behind where his ear would be

and realized that he had stared at those lights

for too long, that he had become just something

chasing something else, that he no longer

knew what it felt like for his hooves

to sink into the soil.

Dead Elk Stares

until something moves


that he cannot name.


When he was young,

when he followed

his mother and slept

in the cradle of her legs and stomach

and the grass was a dark green,

always wet, even after the sun

had reached as far as it could reach

and to touch her fur was to touch

a crackling stalk,


he knew no words


for this world


and loved it without




His eyes finally move, dry, caught

in the wind as it lifts an eagle

across the river, searching, knowing

the only way to love is without words.

Dead Elk Drifts

and thinks of sinking


his teeth into a rotten


apple from that tree seeded


after a hard winter


so its roots know what frozen


ground feels like


and those apples hold that knowing


of how to live after a


long death like he holds this river


like larch hold his liver red


antler velvet until snow pulls it to dirt


Michael Garrigan writes and teaches along the Susquehanna River in Pennsylvania and believes that every watershed should have a Poet Laureate. He is the author of two poetry collections — River, Amen and Robbing the Pillars. He was the 2021 Artist in Residence for The Bob Marshall Wilderness Area. His writing has appeared in Orion Magazine, River Teeth Journal, and North American Review.

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