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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

Petra Kuppers

After the Whales

She steps outside the bounds of the security camera.

Grey-stuccoed walls contract behind her.

Glass arrows compressed from the rotating doors.


A leash of chrome lunges toward her disappearing back

too late


She is already over the street’s hump.

The Bay winks at the bottom, fluke up to mauve sky.

Her legs churn warm pavement, bitumen remembers


mammoth bones liver collapse reptile teeth marks glom

red rubber soles


The street descends steeply.

Creepers dart from shuttered shop windows,

night-flowering orchid bats jab into her nostrils,


green dog shit children, fly buzzes her naked shin.

Rusty spokes slalom


The embarkment pools around her like a suede skirt.

Beyond, ghost ships hulk in the channel.

Thin oil layers salt water into sinus waves.


Fish stink roils up her arms. Lodges a translucent scale

where her toes


burst free the sandal

so tender membrane


She steps onto the harbor’s mirror.

Heel-first, she slips into the bardo of salt.

Depth rushes her hair follicles into contraction.


Sound tugs forward, mouth sucks her beyond

the red bridge.


White shadows cruise at the far edges of sight.

Below bend last violet rays into crust, the black.

Submarine bubble streaks her with lumen lance.


Sediment soft opens basement, doors to

forgotten chambers.


Eyeless choir keens into silicon heat.

A judgement of gelatinous weave holds her tight.

Her brain streams amino acids, pressure curves


Horsetail branches purple, a diode sinks beyond,

they fall. All fall.






Her spine, now






(a Lovecraftian erasure)

Murderous sea: cuss.
Tears flood the reef, atolls bleach to skull
archipelago enters interzone, horned stag sanctuary
final extrusion
microplastics ebb through coral debris, chalk white
mob jelly
luxury beach, your entourage stands by, polaroid trash
tumbles through tentacles, till it adheres to inflamed encrustation
boat-wound mola mola, 400 pound judder
netted millstone with eye blink stare
lime poison veins the water
Chelonii: unable to retract, she spins into the net
wrapped through the fin, shark blood
end of the Aotearoan map.
Diomedeidae: the Albatross’s nest, scope
alone in the hut, red purple green blue intestines
the end came
rope across the seas, flay open stomachs, acids geyser
documentum: the ocean’s plastic lesson


Many words in this poem are taken from a short story by H.P. Lovecraft, refiguring a speculative racist/misogynist daddy into a different kind of ecopoetic alien: violences shift into meditations on how ‘we’ live with this earth.

Desert Song

(upon drifting in Joshua Tree National Park)


Lizard slither, at least, their skin might not stick so much. Mine sticks, desert crystals roughing up the smoothness of riverstone. This water was too long ago, eon ocean,

battered rounds that smell of water, perfume, coy, a veil of water draped so long ago. Gone. All done and drained. Spirited away on desert fumes, heat death.

Crystals grow, accrete, erode, I imagine fractals in the tiny spires under my tender palm. Careful now, do not scratch retina, shoe leather, twist that ankle lest dinosaur

bones grow out of your desiccated flesh. Half-full water bottle glides unanchored down rounded hump of super whale, out of reach in the sand nest, verbena

viper lair, the scorpion’s climate sting shivers in spring rain mirage, desert blooms, one day, another, hipster coffee bar and bath house stink erased in mud

prints, hoof print, lizard pad softly, softly, down the curve, earth’s own curve, this tiny mudball, sandstone’s ancient uncle, ur-sea.

Ammonite curled deep inside itself, tentacles twisted inward, waiting, waiting, for the ocean to swell once more.


Petra Kuppers is a disability culture activist and a community performance artist. She is a Professor at the University of Michigan, and she teaches on the MFA in Interdisciplinary Arts at Goddard College. Her most recent poetry collections are Gut Botany (March 2020 with Wayne State University Press’s Made in Michigan Series), PearlStitch (Spuyten Duyvil: 2016) and the chapbook Green Orion Woman (dancing girl press, 2018). Her stories and poems have appeared in Anomaly/Drunken Boat, PANK, The Sycamore Review, Visionary Tongue, The Future Fire, Capricious, Festival Writer, Accessing the Future: A Disability-Themed Anthology of Speculative Fiction, and QDA: Queer Disability Anthology.  Her speculative queer/crip short story collection, Ice Bar, appeared in 2018. She is the Artistic Director of The Olimpias, an international disability culture collective, and a 2018–2021 Black Earth Institute fellow. She lives in Ypsilanti, Michigan, with her poet partner and collaborator, Stephanie Heit.

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