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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

Renee Ahmeti

A Conversation with My Father on the Way to Dialysis

You tell me through wet, rattled breath,

“They are pumping shit from this pit

to the one up in High Country,”

And I wonder how I’ll know these things

After you are gone.


Peeling red barns bulge with ambling cows

Chewing their cud. Tails swish. Flies buzz.

Jerseys and Holsteins graze a pockmarked path

To the greener end of the pasture.

I say nothing.


A patchwork hill rises among a bevy of others

Crowned with white capped silos and

Sprawling paint chipped homes.

The lines in the field mean something to you,

But I can’t remember what.


Will I remember any of it?

Secret roads connecting hidden meadows?

The way the boundaries of these fields have passed

Like you, from one farm to another

Through decades and generations?


Will the hills themselves ache for your loss?

Weep black mud tears in lightning shaped rivulets?

Crack open slim, dark ravines that echo

Stories of the thrum of your tractor,

Or the pounding of your feet on the earth?


“A deer,” you say between coughs,

Gesturing weakly toward the window.

I see it grazing, and the others too–

Lined up waiting at the edge of the woods.

Songbirds circle, lost for a place to land.

Planting Onions

Cool earth crumbles between my fingers,

Settles in the crevices around my nails.

Once delicate and manicured,

I clawed my way to the top of skyscrapers,


Swayed, powerful, above the streets,

Stared down the machines of human ingenuity,

Mastered and created the systems that

Powered those machines.


Power–the machine that once drove me,

Unmanicured and wide-eyed,

To abandon brown earth tamped gently against soft roots,

And climb ladders in circles with powerful men.


Men who intoxicated me

With dark whiskey and bouncing cigars,

Smart talk and full lungs,

And I have known what it is to be powerless,


A seedling with broken roots

Searching for a better piece of dirt

In a jungle of concrete,

Blinded by metal and glass.


But I have not known, until now,

The absence of power,

The simple bliss of being a part of the earth rather than

Apart from the earth.


And I do not know, even now,

A way to be beyond that oppressive boot,

That zealous drive to climb,

The dizzying height of pursuit.


At the top of Vanderwhacker Mountain

I am rewarded with blue and green

Stained glass dragonflies the size of my fist

Swooping out past the cliff’s edge and back

In broad infinities that, endless, begin and begin again.


And I wonder how it would feel to not notice my own smallness

Or that the earth had fallen away beneath me

Like it did when I first knew I didn’t know you.

The day your face became foreign to me,

Thin lips twisted up into a sneer,


And I could not tell what was real, or where to put my feet

So I launched into a freefall, never stopping

Until I landed at the base of this mountain

Where halfway up there is a hidden pond with a black bear

Who cares not that I have found her here in her floating landscape.


Lazy horseflies land on my shoulders, preferring to ride

Rather than fly on their own weightless wings, which, I am convinced

Propelled me forward on numb legs to the top of Vanderwhacker Mountain

Where I am rewarded with blue and green stained glass dragonflies

Swooping out past the cliff’s edge and back in broad infinities that, endless, begin


And begin again.


Renee Ahmeti is a poet, entrepreneur, and hobby farmer with an MFA in creative writing from Southern Connecticut State University and a law degree she’d rather not talk about. She lives in the Adirondack foothills of Upstate New York and draws inspiration daily from the work-worn hands and patchwork fields of her rural community.

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