a literary journal published by the Black Earth Institute dedicated to re-forging the links between art and spirit, earth and society
Most nights as I walk the shore I gaze
at the festival of gulls and beautiful girls,
all with wings and places to go.
My mind moves like a cloudscape
over striped flashes of blood orange and beach rose.
I read the texts of the tideline—
the iridescent stones and seaweed,
driftwood and silt.
Against so strong a current you cannot
advance. And yet, we do.
And some days I watch a caftaned
woman playing trumpet to the outgoing waters,
some nights I meet a man un-digging his coffin
in the sand. Lovers and tough mothers, new-borns
with fathers who coo in Creole. We nod briefly.
Our pockets fill with dark chocolate kisses
and coins too few for the seaside bar.
What compels us from our houses
even during a pandemic to smoke
and swim and skate?
I look out in new bewilderment
with all the others watching
our bright failures, our sea-lit joys.
with song and a swirl of orgasmic
honey—for your body, for mine.
Cartographers would draw sirens
and griffins in spaces the world did not
yet recognize—the soon-to-be-colonized waters
watched by benevolent monsters of tide and wind.
What legends lie beneath our constricted symbols—
beyond smiling winks and hands pressed to a screen—
as we compose in modern sentences
braiding sorrow with seduction? What happens
between us as we listen in portals
that widen after midnight to
Zimmer’s, Interstellar, leading us
into another dimension? We find our bearings
in the ether, measure this in the opening
of our glowing forms, in the green orbs
of an ellipses…in untested longitude, in latitude,
in the transitive studio of night.
We summon new wavelengths of pleasure,
startled forms that cajole our bodies
into the taste on the edge of the tongue
like the first lick of island rum.
We stumble over non-attachment, no safety net—
no promise of a post pandemic map
imprinting us along one corner of a continent
or another—only this handheld device that rockets
from shoreline to doorframe to nightstand.
Which music shall we cue up next my wanderer—
which thrum of internal rhyme?
I wonder if what she means is fully known?
I want to be known by the cabinet of your being—
its zenith of laughter and its burdens that flutter
towards me. Terrance writes that “making love
to yourself matters more than what you learn when
loving someone else” but I’m not sure he’s right.
I prefer the nugget of otherness, the scuff of your
thought; the simple anatomy of two lyric selves.
What would Rilke say about lovers in a pandemic,
alone, from his borrowed castle, pacing the halls
after midnight muddling the cook’s dreams?
Unable to sleep or pray there’s nothing left for us
but to bring our refuged bodies together. Not a departure
from the day exactly, just a distilled thimble of pleasure
of scent—like the ancient colognes in the Musée du Parfum
in Paris—alive and animated within us; still waiting, still wanting.
Seattle poet Susan Rich is the author of four poetry books, most recently, Cloud Pharmacy, Shortlisted for the Julie Suk Prize, and The Alchemist’s Kitchen, Finalist for the Washington State Book Award. She has earned an Artists Trust Fellowship, a Fulbright Fellowship, the PEN USA Award for Poetry, the Times (of London) Literary Supplement Award and a 4Culture Grant. Rich’s publications include Antioch Review, Gettysburg Review, Harvard Review, New England Review, Poetry Ireland, and World Literature Today. She has two collections forthcoming: A Gallery of Postcards and Maps: New and Selected Poems (Salmon Press) and Blue Atlas (Red Hen Press).