Speaking with the Ancestors

We are delighted to announce the publication of our sixteenth book, available now from our online shop. Over the next weeks we'll be sharing some of the stories, poetry and artwork from this anniversary issue that reflect on a tumultuous decade. Today, we bring you two poems of return from the collection by Raquel Vasquez Gilliland and Ben Weaver. With deer drawing by Rebecca Clark
Raquel is a Mexican-American poet, novelist and painter. When not writing, Raquel tells stories to her plants and they tell her stories back. She lives in Tennessee with her beloved family and mountains. Ben is a songwriter and poet who travels by bicycle. He uses his music as a tool to strengthen relationships between people and ecosystems. Given the choice he will side with the animals, lakes, rivers and the trees.

Excerpt from Letter to the Ancestry Company


I want to know if my great-great-

great-grandmother’s grandmother

liked the rain. If it reminded her

of something longer than blood.

If it made her feel like the earth

were calling an ancient lover.

If thunder made her shiver,

but the good kind of shiver, like when

a palm leaf brushes your shoulder

as you walk in the cold mud.

Did the rain clouds remind her

of the birth caul of her children,

did it seem like the sky was fertile

before each feral storm. If lightning

looked to her like cracks opening

to a new universe, one where rain

spoke backward and cried from time

to time. Did she name each sort of

heavy cloud. Were the huge ones

‘underwood at dusk’,

the accompanying wispy gray,

‘baby hair’. Were her favourite 

the clouds that arrive after

the storm, before the set sun,

when the whole world drips

with rose gold? ‘Cause that’s 

my favourite. Can you tell me, please?

Did I get that from her?

Raquel Vasquez Gilliland


Return of Fire

It reminds me of whitewater 

from within an eddy 

stuffed up a river’s sleeve –

both hands full of styrofoam and roses

embracing the paradoxes, 

years of shell compressed 

at the bottom of this mad time.

I dreamt it while sleeping 

in a tangle of cottonwood root 

on an eroded bank 

near the confluence of universes –

I thought the enemies were far away 

cold in the subway or

stuck behind desks and steering wheels.

When I woke it was written  

out on wasp paper with beet juice,

the enemy is not a person

the enemy is blindness, 

and lack of imagination.

One day there will be forests on Greenland

the land will have risen back up

fires will speckle the darkness 

and songs will return again, 

refuges will be replenished

the blues having transformed the distances 

back to running water,

the sun coming up over a hill

similar to a goddess moving like a grizzly bear, 

a dagger laced into her boot.

Ben Weaver



IMAGE: Stafford’s Deer by Rebecca Clark
Graphite on paper

Stafford’s Deer is based on the poem ‘Traveling through the Dark’ by American poet and pacifist William E. Stafford I felt compelled to dignify the death of this beautiful creature in an imagined, isolated moment. Perhaps the act of drawing her was a form of penance. We are all travelling through the dark.

Rebecca Clark is a US artist who works primarily in pencil on paper. She has exhibited in numerous galleries in the States and her work has been featured in publications such as: Alterity Journal, Zoomorphic, Elementum Journal, works & conversations, EarthLines, Orion Magazine, and The Learned Pig. rebeccaclarkart.com

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

Now booking for our book launch at the Poetry in Aldeburgh Festival on 9th November, 7-8pm. Hope to see you there!


Dark Mountain: Issue 16 – REFUGE

The Autumn 2019 issue is a tenth anniversary collection celebrating a decade of uncivilised writing and art

Read more

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *