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

Tom Cowan

Tom Cowan

On Hearing “Guantanamera” Sung Recently
You sing it harsher
than I remember it
many years ago—
someone else’s voice of course,
maybe a different style guitar.
Perhaps desperate energies
were more romantic then.
Los pobres de la tierra—
the poor people of the earth.
I didn’t know them
very well then.
It seemed obvious
to want to share their fate.
Well, I don’t know them
any better today,
but I have seen their fate—
it is that nothing changed
in what? sixty years?
several generations?
They are still
los pobres de la tierra.
Still. That song
sounds harsher now.
Your voice does not
seduce me.
I am still
un hombre sincero,
but I no longer
want to share their fate.
The Lenape called this great river
river that flows in two directions.
A fjord, the Hudson
turns with the tides,
a salt point settling
now here, now there,
now here again
at untold miles upstream.
Heraclitus would be confused.
We can step into the same river
twice, and watch,
at spring thaw,
the same slabs of ice
flow south, then north,
then south again
in six-hour shifts,
as if reluctant to melt
too quickly, leery of disappearing
in that briny flood toward the sea.
And so would I,
I think.
The Lenape promised
that some of their people
would return long after
they too disappeared,
to help us who came later
protect this valley and its water.
Like a salt point
their spirits hover,
now here, now there,
somewhere close.
Like the river itself
they are reluctant to leave.
I would be too,
I think.
The going has been so good.
So too the coming back.

Tom Cowan has been a shamanic practitioner for 30 years. He has studied with and taught for the Foundation for Shamanic Studies. He is the author of several books on shamanism and Celtic spirituality: Fire in the Head: Shamanism and the Celtic Spirit; Shamanism as a Spiritual Practice for Daily Life; Yearning for the Wind: Celtic Reflections on Nature and the Soul.
Tom is a minister in the Circle of the Sacred Earth and on the Board of Directors of the Society for Shamanic Practitioners and an associate board member of Columcille Megalithic Park in Pennsylvania. He offers shamanic training workshops and spiritual retreats in North America, Central and Eastern Europe, Ireland, Scotland, and England. He lives in New York’s Hudson River Valley. His website is



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