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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

Maya Litauer Chan

give me an urn

give me an urn
to squeeze my body into
I don’t want to die but
there is something incurable about me
my spirit glides
a gull above an endlessly dying ocean
my home is on fire
I suppose part of me longs
to be ash
fine flakes carried by wind
I choose life
though I have no control


my stomach is always eating itself
I am feverish, dreaming always
of masking myself finally
plastic face over my own
angry face
hard edges over my own
wilting edges

do I really believe I can be loved?
am I committed to my own survival?

even the half-moon tastes salty
as I rush through biting air
in fear,
wanting only

to be home
to undo these knots
I have tied around my ribs
and esophagus,
to forget

the way hope sits
behind my lungs
a crow perched perfectly
between body and desire

if i am made of bone

I have never been good

at letting go.


I hold my ghosts close like

children I forgot to bear.

They wallow in my small womb

wondering when this winter will thaw.


Perhaps the only way I know

how to be a lover

is to become a child.


There is only so much

mending I can do.

The rest comes from believing

I, too, can heal.

From watching the sky grow lighter

as winter lifts and clouds

streak my face,

daring yet quiet.


The heartbreak is that winter always comes.

I will always long for another

body which has been baked

long enough in sun,

which doesn’t need to hurt so much

in order to finally

rise from the floor like

mist from a lake.


The body is not forever,

yet I find it so hard to feel my blood

welling up in every chamber, including

my throat which stays

unmoving though I place my thin

body in the wind.


if I am made of bone

it is only to say

to my great grandchildren

I, too, was here

I, too, have suffered.


Yet I find no comfort in a family

which has poured all its pain

into my own bone-white spine and left me

stumbling like a child over the ground.


I need a mother,

perhaps more than my own,

to stroke my hair when I nightly


to tell me there are other

ways to be strong

than holding my breath

like eggshells, broken

in my lungs.


Maya Litauer Chan is a poet and dreamer born and raised in San Francisco, CA and living in Portland, OR. She works in a gluten free bakery, and in her free time she loves to garden, write, and read. Currently her favorite poet is Ocean Vuong. Previous publications include Assisi: An Online Journal of Arts & Letters, and About Place Journal. Her work spans themes of trauma, loss, spirituality, ancestors, healing, pain, and the body.

Other works by Maya Litauer Chan »

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