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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

Margaret Randall

Promising Trouble When I’m Gone

for Kelly Martínez


If I wanted to go, I went. If I wanted
world, I stretched my arms
and waited. I was propelled on
wings of desire the 1950s chokehold
couldn’t kill in me.

In my vocabulary yes was always
a better word than no, red
a better color, imagination
the prize. When I met brilliance,
I asked it who to read.

I gave birth for the first time without
fanfare of husband, home or job,
nothing but love and energy
for that child I brought to life,
thunderous and sweet.

Poetry kept me company then, still
moves in my veins, telling me
it will inhabit my mouth
through war and famine:
perfect balm for hungry lips.

Poetry is always here, like my arms
and world and color, helping me
make it through just as those who
came before, standing beside me now,
promising trouble when I’m gone.

Portrait of the Artist as an Old Woman

Words and images keep on showing up.
I manage a quick sidestep
to let them pass
but cannot avoid their rush.

Waiting at doctor or dentist’s office
I thumb through a worn magazine.
Ideas leap from its pages
like arrows snagging memory.

In the supermarket foreign foods aisle,
on labels I cannot read and boxes
I’ll never purchase, coded phrases
act as if they belong to me.

Driving across high desert, piñon and sage
for miles on either side,
I pull off road, grab pen and paper
and begin.

Looking in a mirror or running from
myself, I imagine a portrait
of the artist as an old woman,
in past tense and sure future.

I pause to soak up sun or rest in the shade
of someone else’s story. The poem
is always waiting around the corner
telling me who I am.

The Child Covers Her Eyes

The child covers her eyes
with her small palms,
believes no one
can see her
because she sees no one.

We adults cover our eyes
with ignorance,
a metaphor in these times
when many think
knowledge is sin.

The child is playing
with discovery,
exploring what will
be of use
and what she will discard.

We exercise choice at our peril
or delight. Take a chance:
Know it is possible
to remember the trick
of hands over eyes

even as we fool ourselves
and others,
agree to dance with play
as we struggle
with destruction.


Margaret Randall (New York, 1936) is a poet, essayist, oral historian, translator, photographer and social activist. She has published more than 150 books of poetry, essay and oral history. Among her most recent poetry collections are: The Morning After: Poetry and Prose for a Post-Truth World, Against Atrocity and Time’s Language: Selected Poems 1959–2018 (all from Wings Press). She lived in Latin America for 23 years (Mexico, Cuba, Nicaragua). In 2019 Randall was given the “Poet of Two Hemispheres” award by Poesía en Paralelo Cero, Quito, Ecuador. That same year, Cuba’s CASA de las Américas gave her its prestigious Haydée Santamaría medal. A memoir, I Never Left Home: Poet, Feminist, Revolutionary, was released by Duke University Press in spring 2020. In March AWP named her recipient of the year of its George Garrett Award.

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