The Reliquary Earth / Jan Shoemaker


poems by

Jan Shoemaker

ISBN: 978-1-59948-710-6, ~68 pages, $14

Projected Release Date:  January 22, 2019


Jan Shoemaker is the author of the essay collection, Flesh and Stones: Field Notes from a Finite World. Her work has been anthologized, featured on public radio, and published in many magazines and journals. She lives in Michigan with her husband.

The “spirit that slips inside” these gorgeous, intelligent poems, spills out as marvel of the world which at times seems to cry like the crow, yet perseveres like ferns spiraling up through snow. The entire universe, this poet tells us, experiences memory, all of it interconnected. These are lyrical elegies. They are odes. This collection is a synthesis of faith, nature, and ourselves, all in need of one another, all deserving of protection, political and otherwise. —Joy Gaines-Friedler, author of Capture Theory and Dutiful Heart


In The Reliquary Earth, Jan Shoemaker interrogates the world—both natural and manmade—in an attempt to understand what it means to be both human and humane amidst the chaos of the twenty-first century. These are wonderful poems, full of that all-too-rare combination of heart and wisdom, truly a manifesto for difficult times. –Sarah Freligh, author of Sad Math


The Reliquary Earth is a collection of treasures, allowing us to walk with Jan Shoemaker and see what she sees. Each poem calls our attention to something we might have overlooked otherwise, and the short lines and careful diction invite us to stop and marvel or weep alongside the speaker. These poems have both a sureness of vision and an aching need to understand: how can we live in the world as we find it? – Susannah Sheffer, author of This Kind of Knowing and Fighting for Their Lives

The Long View at Zion National Park


Surely cunning came first
when we slipped from the sea.
It lent us the low advantage
without which we’d never
be here at all.
We gave up a gill for a lung,
invested in rock and soil,
grew conservative politics
shaped by the land.

But what vision quickened
wonder in our gestating mind?
Did falling water rise in
limbic awe? Did sun breaking
on granite fumble the hunt
for a moment of inexplicable
joy that could only be drummed
and danced and sung in the
first hymns to ascend from
the earth?





The world is
wind and crow today!
Some canopy crisis
riots above as
I stand transfixed
in this little woods,
heavy and rooted,
gazing up

where black wings
beat in rugged gusts as,
lapping crown to crown,
the crows in billowing
boughs of oaks
in motion stir
the forest mad
in high blind air!

The Landlord, the Reaper,
the Savior is coming!

We have flocked to
the high places, Lord—
the infidels didn’t
raze them all—
we are here for
the heretic
heathen ride
of wild rapture
crow to sky!



Antelope Canyon


“They used to herd
antelope through this slot,”
our Navajo guide explained,
leading us through a cleft in the rock.
“They slaughtered them in here.”

The passage before us
rippled and turned and swayed
like flesh in a Baptist church
when the spirit slips inside—
all bosom and holy rolling hips.
Above us, light unspooled from the sun
and quickened the stone and
sang in tongues.

Blind: the streams that
chiseled this flute,
the wind that sculpted this rock.
They cut temples in which humans
would one day add blood,
spilling out prayers
as they lowered the blade,
carving a channel
to grace.

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