a literary journal published by the Black Earth Institute dedicated to re-forging the links between art and spirit, earth and society

Lily Greenberg


Who?

“We don’t need a worldview of Earth beings as objects anymore. That thinking has led us to the precipice of climate chaos and mass extinction. We need a new language that reflects the life-affirming world we want. A new language, with its roots in an ancient way of thinking.”
–Robin Wall Kimmerer
 

Here I am it’s June loose multiple earth-toned getup but

all around me glitter, drawn eyebrows, deep V, and I

 

hate it—costume, I don’t know how to do it, and

I’m more empty when the world blows through

 

mine. 30 days of thinking about the failure

of language. To split myself into two: bi-

 

focal: making whole multiple objects

of attention. Am I writing if I’m online

 

shopping? Am I “still interested in

women” if I am dating a “man”?

 

Back to thinking about the failure of language.

Biradical: independent and

 

odd: quarry full of red lichen—no, sundew:

little mouths look like leaves, a fly

 

dead in the nectar. Are you a plant if you eat

meat? If you bend to sun like everyone else and also

 

eat meat? Taker! Who let you open the bi-

orhythm? Who let you be so multiple? Bi-

 

nomial: me too, I’m at once several

names: Lu, Loon, Crontigue, touch-me

 

-not, soon, aster, risen woman

taking off her clothes. Risen person

 

taking off their clothes.

What was worn: fishnets

 

onto water, breaking the moon into

snakes: flickers running the direction of away,

 

strewn to black. Naked, what am I called?

Kimmerer says ki—this maple, in spring, ki gives us

 

rot gone sugar. Ki—snapping turtle in the road.

Lift. Ki opens at mouth, the whole body, ki

 

will close on you. Open, what am I called?

In the oldest beech, ki carves a name. Ki

 

is walking the long dog home. All doors

open to ki. Shadows sit with

 

ki. Hear my name and say

who? Who heard God and

 

multiplied? Who is a womb? Who

bloomed bitter flowers in the sewer,

 

whose night is made of walnuts? Who is dark

matter. Who found their name in a plastic

 

calculator? A heart finally swings

open. Whose? Hear my names

 

and say open. Who is open as an arch

in a garden, peas climbing spine-up. Who

 

sweats openly on the brown grass. Who turned

the water off. Who is asking

 

who asked for this? Who is open enough

to know the miracle of a bee resting

 

on a shoulder. Who belongs to ki. Who

unlocks the ocean, whose song is

 

singing up the sun. Lord, open

the eyes of my name, and let me hear.


Responsibility

And if
the red parade
upends you, offends
you, bends you and sends you
to a yard divided
by a river, here—
come stand awhile.
The water is not like us.
It does not raise its hand
and say, “I am the river and
the rain and the tears.
I am not the rock,
not the styrofoam cup.”
In the going of water,
everything belongs:
a plane’s shadow
crosses a black bear nosing
a float of dead
Hudson herrings.
The water
does not think ruin
when flat cola
pools at the bank.
White legs kick up,
and the rapids keep on,
don’t care—even
as the dam slows the water
brown, the river goes.
You could be like that.
If you cry for the walruses
spinning through air,
gone limp on cliff rocks,
you cry we did that.
You could drop a butt
in the shallows, say sorry
with dead fish eyes
and walk away.
See where that gets you.
Then come breathe with me
while the world splits
beyond repair.

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Lily Greenberg is a poet from Nashville, Tennessee living in Portland, Maine. Her work has appeared in Hobart, storySouth, Third Coast Magazine, and Hole in the Head Review, among others, and her debut collection of poems In the Shape of a Woman is forthcoming with Broadstone Books in 2022. She is a 2021 Breadloaf Scholar and the 2021 recipient of the Dick Shea Memorial Award for Poetry judged by Jennifer Militello. Lily earned her MFA at the University of New Hampshire.


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