a literary journal published by the Black Earth Institute dedicated to re-forging the links between art and spirit, earth and society
snagging migrant sleeves that cross midnight borders,
evade the heat-seeking binoculars of border police.
Rain, and we gather isolated in desert yards to inhale the moist leaf scent
of transplanted eucalyptus, rugged native mesquite.
Rain, and anxiety’s sweat crouches in the shadows of mourning doves
hunkered in willows hiding behind their long green hair.
Rain, we say, and we turn off the natter of news analysts
justifying chain link cages where refugee children curl
crying for parents detained for the crime of being poor.
Rain, and we pull the hems of sea green sheets closer
over our shoulders turning free on an axis of dreams.
Rain, and we lick desire’s swollen lips
above our thighs tightening beyond fear.
Rain, and ravens sleeps late, unmoved by coyotes
ripping a clutch of young rabbits pinned beneath their hunger.
Rain, and aloes bulge tumescent skins,
exhaling bombs of oxygen for us to breathe.
Rain, and tires pull bandages of speed from the lost traveler’s eyes.
Rain, and the chapped hands of wind rest in dawn’s quiet lap.
Rain, and grandmothers age backward to hope’s coy glance
undressing loneliness, tossing off musty wool blankets
for the next street dance in semi-dark.
Rain, we say, flexing knees, practicing for the final leap back to stars
whose language we’ve taken a lifetime to learn.
Rain, and cell phones turn themselves off, tired of gossip,
of wheedling presidential tweets.
Rain, and lovers find the lost faces of their beloveds under the eaves.
Rain knits a cool shawl of light to comfort misery’s desert-scarred skin.
Rain, we say, and creosote sweet leaps to each migrant’s lips.
Wind today drives gravel like buckshot
into everyone’s lungs, even mule deer
nibbling the sweet new leaves of scrub oak that
appear to be as dead as the road-killed jackrabbit
begging help from the far flow of the Milky Way.
What can we make of sun that sets like a platinum moon
ghosting monstrous miles of thick blown dust from China
like a B-grade science fiction movie as we drive the high plateau
home in the Southern Rockies? Where once ravens flew
through the atmosphere’s clarity, roils
an ocean of grit, icy and gray as powdered concrete.
And, in the brood mare pasture, a fat black gas storage tank
squats next to a fracking well installed a week ago, cast
iron toadstool blocking the view of earth’s sacred curve.
My feet tingle from months of chemo assault
that murdered nerves. Did the horses or ravens
or I ask for benzene infused in water we drink?
On NPR we listen to a scientist discuss
the reality of Climate Change, reassuring us
that we can adjust. The President tweets
it’s all a hoax. I switch on the blues,
Muddy Waters, whose Mississippi Delta voice
churns through heartbreak’s murk, the sludge of backwater
lies smothering us. Somehow, Muddy lifts our chins
as we exit another smoky bar of longing.
How can the stars we’ve loved for years cut clear maps
through this vast dust obliterating the highest peaks, storm
ravens dare, wings curved like scythes we ride
from one dead tree to the next?
played six years into our patio at sunset, the bugle taped
as clear and sorrowful as broken chairs at the kitchen table.
Now the neighbor’s added The Star Spangled Banner
at noon to blast pride into our hunkered-down hood.
Does he think we’ll rally, recruits against surgical masks
and gloves marching to the righteous support
of tear gas or rubber bullets maiming
peaceful protesters against police brutality?
Must be ex-military I think, unfairly, maybe
a supporter of the White House king of greed
shifting blame, tossing inarticulate grenades of hate
at anyone who contradicts his doctrine of degradation.
I could be wrong. Who is this neighbor I’ve never seen
who blasts musical messages across the arroyo
near the baby goats and burros I’d rather hear?
Does he assume we snap to attention, hands
slapped over hearts grieving the ragged flag of corporate
rule—seven million more Americans lost health insurance
last week, Corona cases overburdened Emergency Rooms
will treat. Between the gusting lyrics of patriotic zeal
and the jack hammer nattering away at caliche
in the accountant’s yard, there is no peace.
When the hundred and fifty thousand dead of this virus rise,
what ghost anthem will they sing?
Political activist and wilderness advocate, Pam Uschuk has howled out six books of poems, including Crazy Love (Wings Press 2009), winner of a American Book Award; Finding Peaches in the Desert (Tucson/Pima Literature Award); and her most recent, Blood Flower (Wings Press, 2015), which was one on Book List’s Notable Books. She is a 2018–2021 Black Earth Institute fellow.