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