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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

Emily Shearer

Emily Shearer

I. Stormscape
            Every coming thing is audible under water.
            Reticent tide, coalescing with the wind, sends mole crabs in their pale and ancient armor skimming the layers of glass before it is glass. Primary waves register tremors thin as filament, and at the level where swimmers float and dive, there is supple adaptation to terrestrial undulations.
II. The Ocean is a Woman
            The ocean is a woman. The rain line begins over her shoulder just below the coast where scapula meets wave; sleek as otter pelt, there is no distinction – water carries water.
            All boats clear her harbor. She ascends, arms behind her like fins in flight, legs wrapped around her plum line. No longer a simple wishful mermaid, practicing poses on the sand. Now she waits for the whale to teach her the ritual. She may yet strangle, her long hair whipping in the whirlwind and the weight of all that water. The sacrifice of gill for lung is no fair trade. And yet.
            Stripped to a layer of spume and roil, she has lost control. She can’t see behind her, head twisted towards the dragon lying just beyond her navigable borders. Electric bolts spit fire upon her skin. Wind thrashes, the storm of her dreams has broken through the transcendent layer of daylight. All is lost. All is lost.
            Finally, the whale arrives. The dolphins of her haunches surf her rolling hips and the bowl of her pelvis, clamoring for dominion over jellyfish and stingrays and ships’ cutting prows and tall masts.
            And she is sated. Sea snakes look upon her and are charmed. And the storm that built blows on down the coast.
            Dried off, clothed again as storm subsides, she becomes the breath and its repletion. A wooden reliquary floats and bears her own secrets within. She becomes the serpent, and the serpent never ends.
In sewing diagrams, the selvages
are clearly marked “Selvages”,
as if we can’t already tell the difference
between a seamless smooth fold
and the kind of reinforced edge that serves
to keep the fabric from unraveling.
Church performs the same function
  of industry or handicraft
It’s why we tuck our hair under a scarf when we go out into the wind
why we leave the screaming and the treachery out
of all our family albums
—          We want all of the web’s intricacies,
            and none of the flies.
In that last scene in Charlotte’s Web
the spider babies’ nascent silks
balloon and fly away
streaming out on vaporous breezes
towards the imminent and beautiful danger of living,
tethered to nothing but a canopy
spun from the singular wiredrawn threads
of a substance you can barely see
when you hold it up to the light,
yet high and dense enough
to collect a summer’s bounty.
Take that photo, mid-July of some years past,
I am gripping a kite string in one hand,
facing sidelong into the surf.
I have placed my other palm flat and widespread
upon my pregnant belly.
Eventually I have to choose what to let unravel
Or else tether myself to a new and skeinless border.
I like the way selvage sounds like salvage.
Like sewing up raw edges is Salvation.
All the lessons of my church-going taught me this:
            we have nothing to hold onto
            and everything to hold.

Emily Shearer lives, writes, and teaches yoga in Prague, Czech Republic with her husband and three children. Her poetry has been published in ROAR (forthcoming),, writing the whirlwind, Mercury Retrograde (from Kattywhompus Press), and Minerva Rising, where she is the Poetry Editor. You can read more of her work and view her photo albums at


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