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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

Liz Kellebrew


The worlds beneath the world are older.
The slanted staircase mountains
Smack the holy night
The earth is a peeled apple.
The wild is not the wild
So much as it is us
Let each century melt in your mouth
Like burnt sugar.
Spider silk weaves itself and
So do you, my friend
You strong beautiful thing you


High desert highway, moonlight on sage. With the hills of Grass Valley behind me, I hug hairpin curves over steep canyons, warm springs. I am centaur, half human, half machine, the lower regions of my body fused to my Indian Scout. One hundred purring horses. Somewhere between here and Reno are the winding roads of home, the pine tree circle of my first powwow, absolute darkness and cougar screams.

Not so long ago, I stopped in the valley for an ice-cold drink at The Geological Wonder Shoppe. The sun hung low and orange over tall grassy knolls, and a garden of herbs flared spicy fragrance from a plot out back. Surrounded by crystalline geodes and amethyst spikes, I bought a dry cherry soda and swapped stories with the clerk. He sold me a piece of smooth green glass, salvaged from the ruins of an Arizona ghost town that burned in a bar fight a century ago. Black ashes fixed forever in its heart.

Ghost glass in my pocket, I fueled my Scout at the gas station with two ancient analog pumps. The biker bar next door spewed out its drunken brood, yellow-lit and wailing.

They barreled past me later on the massive blue buttes, their taillights red lightning. I let their exhaust flow over me, the scent of gasoline fading into the humus of soil, the carrot fields and wheat.

Now, deep into the last part of the night, there is only me on the road. Nothing else but loose scree and one triple tractor trailer, its Jake brake yattering all the way down into river valley low. I pass the truck easily. Its two white headlights follow me like eyes of coyote.

My throat hurts and my nose stings. I cross the narrow bridge, smell rushing water below. The quarter moon follows, rusting at the edges. And then I smell the smoke.

I crest the hill and the trees are on fire. An ocean of flames has come over the land, its heat washing over me. The highway stretches on between fiery walls of fir, black tarmac shining like snakeskin. State troopers tell me the road is not closed yet.

I tuck my braids inside my jacket as ashes fall. I strap my helmet on tight. I am no longer centaur, not human, not machine. I am something else entirely.


Liz Kellebrew’s fiction was shortlisted for the Calvino Prize and the Black River Chapbook Competition, and her poetry book, Water Signs, is forthcoming from Unsolicited Press. Her short stories and poems have been published in journals such as Room, The Coachella Review, The Conium Review, and Writers Resist. She earned an MFA in Creative Writing from Goddard College.

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