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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

Kim Roberts

Milkweed at Rosh Hashanah

Asclepias syriaca

This is the new year, the season
when paisley-shaped pods
turn from celadon to ash-brown
and split clamwise,
releasing their silk. Each pod

holds up to one hundred seeds.
Each seed has its ghostly
fragile panicle, large enough
to contain hope, which spreads
on a gust. I imagine the relief,

the halving and shedding,
as the Prophet Micah
instructs us to cast our sins
into the depths of the sea.
The opened pods look like boats,

thin-skinned dugouts
sailing toward a shore
replete with next year’s
monarch eggs. How those caterpillars
love the bitter cardenolides,

store them up in their flesh.
Milkweed’s Latin name
honors Asklepios, Greek God
of medicine. What is toxic
to some, is sustenance to others.

Yom Kippur

The moon is always disappearing,
waning a little more with each lunation.
Each year, astronomers say, it moves
another inch and a half further away.
The root of the word eclipse
comes from the Greek for abandonment.

What creature killed the rabbit overnight,
cracked its chest wide
and pulled out each organ, glistening
in pink and blue membrane sacs?
Who robs the treasure chest
then leaves the jewels behind?

Now the first hard frost rents the ground
and the maple leaves begin to turn.
T’Shuvah: for our length of days.
Split open my chest; I will steal
one waning hour to add
to the great storehouse of night.


Kim Roberts is the editor of the anthology By Broad Potomac’s Shore: Great Poems from the Early Days of our Nation’s Capital (University of Virginia Press, 2020), and the author of A Literary Guide to Washington, DC: Walking in the Footsteps of American Writers from Francis Scott Key to Zora Neale Hurston (University of Virginia Press, 2018), and five books of poems, most recently The Scientific Method (WordTech Editions, 2017). Roberts has been the recipient of grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, HumanitiesDC, and the DC Commission on the Arts, and has been a writer-in-residence at 18 artist colonies. Poems of hers have been featured in the Wick Poetry Center’s Traveling Stanzas Project, on the Academy of American Poets’ Poem-a-Day Project, and on podcasts sponsored by the Library of Congress and the National Endowment for the Arts.

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