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

V. Bray


You rub your lower back

your left hip

crinkled and worn

like the hip I inherited:

a topographical ache

as if a cartographer penned our DNA

to match in rhythms of hurt.


Your mother was hunted down

across Siberian fields;

through serendipity,


she made it safely

through a war that stole her family’s land.


You were born of her,

displaced in an army camp,

the hot dirt of the Middle East so unlike

the rich soil of Białowieża forest,

your mother’s childhood.


The dry air made you sick:

fevers and rashes abounding despite

prayers for a different tomorrow.

You were carried over oceans,

your mother still caught

in a war she did not start:

both of you abandoned, when it was over,

in the rain-glazed English countryside,

outsiders to those thatched cottage villages,

instead corralled into barracks

breeding resentment and need,

gossip and hunger.


You watched free nations rejoice in their win,

unwilling to acknowledge

the tectonic shift of the land

beneath your ancestry slip,

slipping, slipped, tear

tearing, torn away

from your feet.


This broken legacy

you passed on to me:

displacement is ingrained

in my bones.


I rub my lower back

my left hip

crinkled and worn

like the hip I inherited

a topographical ache

as if a cartographer penned our DNA

to match in rhythms of hurt.


I walk the swales

like my father taught me

winding down green tussocks

to your shimmering brown waves

lapping at silty earth

while trees hover like cliff divers

roots clinging to layers of red shale

stratified from time’s beginning.


Industrialization molded your banks

cutting a tow path connecting

your currents to the Delaware,

easing transport.


Today, centuries degraded,

apartment buildings scattered on

the remains of condemned textile mills,

families’ lives compartmentalized

between broken sewage facilities,

ages old systems overflowing,

waste mixed with runoff,

sludge pouring into your sandy depths,


making you,

my beloved water, the 12th

in a growing list of sullied waterways

washing our waste,


out to sea.


V. Bray has been a writer since childhood and still has a box filled with her first “books,” usually illustrated with markers and bound with yarn. She writes in many genres, from speculative and historical fiction to poetry. Her work has been published in the anthology Growing Up Lifespan and The Writer magazine.

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