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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

Naomi Ortiz

Heart medicine for courage

When I need courage, I draw plants


Like safety can be quantified in drawing, therefore knowing, weeds which grow in my yard, at the side of the road, in the arroyo


In this dry gritty dirt where I sit, life springs up unadorned where animal or wind dropped seed,

in the middle of everything


Pencil lines arch, friction of hand slides over page, shakes loose what scares me


As shape becomes form, confidence is inspired by stems flung open wide to sun

Leaves bend in flow of breeze, shake loose, give themselves some room


Tiny flowers at the end of long peduncle
Entire plant, smooth to the touch
Blue-green leaves notched at the margin

Later, learn: Leaves edible, medicinal herb
Papalo Quelite

A practice to learn the secrets behind a name


Fortitude unearthed by greeting what lives at my feet

Heart medicine for mutual attention

In the desert, I listen, plants speak

In the desert, I observe

plants show how to survive


In the desert, I let my guard down

plants sit patient

In the desert, I entrust the tender bits

Plants are with me as I lay them down


I always ask permission: to leave ragged and sharp remnants of a romantic relationship beside a driveway in the generous pads of a nopal cactus, to “bury” racist, ableist people in their own small underground graves

in my front yard,

on a rocky slope,

under an old oak tree,

to leave unanswered questions and pain borne from an imperfect parental relationship with dancing grasses next to Sandhill Cranes who sing to each other as they glide over the ephemeral water plain


I always acknowledge, always thank








mutual regeneration


Naomi Ortiz is a Poet, Writer, Facilitator, and Visual Artist whose intersectional work focuses on self-care for activists, disability justice, eco-justice, and relationship with place. She is the author of Sustaining Spirit: Self-Care for Social Justice (Reclamation Press), a non-fiction book for diverse communities on dealing with the risks of burnout. Ortiz is a Border Narrative Grant Awardee for her multidisciplinary project, Complicating Conversations. Numerous publications have featured Ortiz’s writing and poetry and her poems have been featured as the Poem of the Week by Split This Rock and Zoeglossia. Ortiz has contributed to anthologies such as We Are Not Your Metaphor, a disability poetry anthology and has performed her poetry at events such as the Disability Pride Parade. Ortiz is a proud disabled mestiza (Latina/Indigenous/White), living in the Arizona U.S./Mexico borderlands.

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