A Letter from Death Valley, an Elegy from the Future

We are excited to announce the publication of our latest book, available now from our online shop. The fifteenth issue of Dark Mountain is a spring anthology of non-fiction, fiction, poetry and artwork inspired in part by the element of fire. Over the next weeks we'll be sharing some of what you can find in its pages. Today two poems by Mike Cipra and Emily Stoddard lament the loss and beauty of the living world, with image by Lucy Rose Kerr.
Mike Cipra has lived and written in landscapes ranging from Death Valley to the old-growth redwood forests of northern California. Emily Stoddard belongs to seven acres of ironweed, bur oaks, sugar maples, herons and hummingbirds in Michigan, USA. She is a leader of the Amherst Writers & Artists Method and founder of Voice & Vessel, a writing studio.

Letter From the Suburbs of Death Valley

Dear Mom, the speed bump coming into my trailer park
is huge, like a holy asphalt mountain, so when you come to visit,
you must slow your tiny car to the speed of the desert tortoises
who wander the washes west of this ruined meridian.
The children who jump the speed bump on bicycles
have strength in their legs and dirt in their hair – they are
so beautiful on a Saturday afternoon, shining
when I return from the liquor store with a 12-pack
in the trunk and a list of adjectives in the mind,
soaring, glorious, lost, amazing,
inspired by the pair of hawks that fly in circles
over the trailer park’s septic pond,
but in fact applicable to any life form thriving here.
It is a strange existence, punctuated by late nights of writing
and frightened glances from neighbours in the morning.

Nothing here is normal except the proselytisers
who come door-to-door on a regular schedule to save souls,
regardless of whether the souls are lonely
or poor or drunk or beaten by husbands
or just plain out of luck, there are many,
many churches willing to sign you up.
I haven’t fooled around too much with Jesus just yet,
but if I do, I’ll have more friends than I can count.
While I was preparing this very letter, the insistent tapping
of Mormons woke me from the couch, where I was passed out
beside empty beer cans and a pen leaking blue ink. Don’t worry,
I am not drowned by words or liquor or irony or what other people think,
and every day I watch the sun go down on the desert,
turning our sky into something violent for a while.
I miss you, Mom. Tell Pop I miss him too,

and tell him I am working hard on my book.
The words come easily some nights
and are more difficult other nights, unpredictable
as the wind which fans a smouldering trash fire
at the county dump – a conflagration of waste that has been burning steadily
for three weeks. According to a disc jockey on the country radio station,
this here trash fire could last all summer and fall,
until the sadness of heartbreak puts it out.
The talk radio host on the competing religious frequency
predicts fire until the absolute end of the world.
Longer even. Every day, I touch the end, I am paid to spill it under my nails
and in my hair, as I drain gallons of used motor oil, the fossil blood
of the Earth scorched in metal hearts of motorhomes and SUVs.
Although I believe in no God that can slow our consumption, I pray to Her;
believe me Mother, every word I write is part of my prayer.

— Mike Cipra


Hivemind Elegy

They tried to warn us, told us the truthteller
would speak in apples.

And now the apple trees grow alien –
fully formed, but fruitless.

When we lost the garden, we did not know
it would begin with the bees.

Migration patterns may soon
become escape routes,

already we speak of the earth like a lover
we’re leaving three sleeps too late.

Mars and moon – we are on about colonies again,
the most prophetic wing in the museum of desire.

The children swarm to see astronauts, drones.
A cherry-red Tesla orbits like a beacon,

because we mark our heroes by the flags they plant.
The apple trees unseed themselves

in quiet, the way a lover reveals her disbelief
simply by how she clears her throat.


— Emily Stoddard


Dark Mountain: Issue 15

The Spring 2019 issue is a collection of non-fiction, fiction, poetry and artwork that responds to the ‘age of fire’.


Read more


Image:  Smoke Angel – Volcano on Mars, Dreaming of Olympus Mons by Lucy Rose Kerr
Photographic illusion

Lucy’s artworks include photographs of sets made using household objects and Ghost Drawings that appear on the page. She works from a meditative state, exploring inner and outer landscapes, a process-led ritual that tempts imagery from the unconscious.

Lucy Rose Kerr is a creator of illusions, from photographed sets made using household objects to ghost drawings that appear on the page. She works from a meditative state, exploring inner and outer landscapes, a process-led ritual that tempts imagery from the unconscious.


If you take out an annual subscription to Dark Mountain you can buy this issue for a reduced price.

Save the date: we will be launching Dark Mountain: Issue 15 at the Black Book Cafe in Stroud on May 24th at 7pm. Book your ticket here.


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