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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

Jen Karetnick

During quarantine, I embrace myself as a long-hauler,

lignum vitae, wood

so dense it doesn’t float


I’ve been reduced to not being able to stand up in the shower


poetic, considering how much

the wood has given to ocean travel


Even reading a book is challenging and exhausting


an escaped ornamental

pruned to maintain a narrower profile


I don’t understand what’s happening in my body


the leaf is made of more

than one leaf-like part


Every day you wake up and you might have a different symptom


from a distance

like clouds of purple


I’ve had messages saying this is all in your head


as the non-native is not invasive

at the northernmost range


I understand there are so many unknowns


not so easily warped by humidity

or temperature changes


As a patient, I need acknowledgment


as a generalization, then,

it suffers from a reputation as slow


It has gotten better, but I track that trajectory in weeks, not days


similar to pomegranate seeds

either one is a worthwhile endeavor


Being a survivor is something you must also survive



Note: This poem is comprised of phrases found from the following two articles

In Quarantine, I Splinter Anger

and use it to pick clean my teeth

of knots and thorny greens, purge

my gums until all my words run clear.


When expecting the hoe to strike

glacial till at any time, nerves numb;


blood performs its prickly retreat. Still,

every evening the news is an attack.

Politicians eschew masks, fidget with


faces as they broadcast our sacrificial

itineraries. Nurseries shut down but no


one plants the guts of peppers, the punky

eyes of potatoes, crowns of half-rotted

pineapples. Cyclists ride and ride, heads


bared to the sun, so many early melons.

The smog clears but plastic mountains

peak. There’s marrow to harvest here


if only I were keeping such bones to roast.

After Lockdown, Summer Prayer for

this country, an oyster: Ridged cup

closed, it pumps pallid circulation,

resists the serrated knife of consumption.


Where is the grace to gentle our children

who ache to catch wild cobalt in untethered


arms? Whose elevated longings we hear

on a pitch that intensifies with the strength

of the season, the insistent changing of tides?


Pried open, this country quivers in a curry

of tears. An altering liquor to filter. A rampant,


permanent burn.


Jen Karetnick is the author of five full-length poetry collections, including Hunger Until It’s Pain (Salmon Poetry, forthcoming spring 2023); The Burning Where Breath Used to Be (David Robert Books, forthcoming August 2020); and The Treasures That Prevail (Whitepoint Press, September 2016), finalist for the 2017 Poetry Society of Virginia Book Prize. She is also the author of five poetry chapbooks, including The Crossing Over (March 2019), winner of the 2018 Split Rock Review Chapbook Competition. Her poems have been awarded the Hart Crane Memorial Prize, the Romeo Lemay Poetry Prize, the Anna Davidson Rosenberg Prize, and two Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Prizes, among others. Her work appears recently or is forthcoming in Barrow Street, The Comstock Review, december, Michigan Quarterly Review, Terrain, Under a Warm Green Linden, Valparaiso Poetry Review, and elsewhere. Co-founder and managing editor of SWWIM Every Day, Jen is currently a Deering Estate Artist-in-Residence.

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