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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

Mary Hills Kuck

Young Plum Tree


The month of March collapses

into a single yawning day,

the hours drifting into each other

like dawn into the dusk.


Who can remember when we first

learned the ailing world would seep

under our doors, into our bodies?


We stay at home, walk in woods,

neighbors nod, a beaver thrills,

a springtime swan sails without a mate.


I dress in black beneath my stay-home clothes.


The numbers rise. Hundreds of thousands sick,

tens of thousands dead. How long?



April. Time contracts, settles.

Hours tumble into routine.


I am making masks. In my left eye

you will see blood, and my smile

now can’t conceal my tears.


Silent, masked, we glide

down the arrowed aisles,

vacant spaces lie between us.


The numbers rise.

How long: weeks or months?



The fickle season teases us with balmy sun,

then snows the greening garden, withers us with wind.


Yet just outside our window,

jonquils presage softer days,

chartreuse and rosy treetips promise leaves.

Our young plum tree sprouts hope

in delicate ivory blooms.

A Poem

See the super moon tonight, it beams so brightly,

brings me out of sleep to lift the window blind

and see the rocks and sprouting flowers doused in light.

Tufts of clouds the wind has pulled apart have blown

across the indigo to shroud the dazzling brilliance

of that radiant moon. To no avail—it shines right through,

causing leafless branches to trace their fragile patterns

on the dusty pale blue puffs.


I wonder if this silver washing over me

and on my chair is at last a longed-for blessing

that I cannot comprehend. I’ll sit and let it gleam,

hoping delicate slivers will remain until the morning

so that I will still remember this poem.

To Love My Country with a Broken Heart

Man kann das Land nur mit gebrochenem Herzen lieben. Frank Walter Steinmeyer,

President of Germany, 2020, at a remembrance of the end of World War II.


There are so many ways to love my land.

I loved it with my hand upon my heart

when bands played Bless America to start

our Homecomings, and we all had to stand.

I loved it driving through the hills and trees,

across the plains of corn and beans, the sun.

I loved the cities, with their endless hum,

and where our peoples seemed to mix with ease.


But time has compromised my youthful zeal.

The sacrifices, crimes, and willful greed

that undermine our country’s first ideals

have caused our people needlessly to bleed.

And so my broken heart leads me to kneel,

to love my land, but not forget its need.


Mary Hills Kuck has retired from teaching English and German for many years in the US and Jamaica and now lives in Massachusetts. She has received a Pushcart Prize nomination and has published in a number of journals, most recently in the Connecticut River Review, Tipton Poetry Journal, Burningwood Literary Journal, From the Depths, Poetry Quarterly, as well as Slant and Main St. Rag, both forthcoming.

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