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TURTLE ISLAND QUARTERLY 12

Spring/2017

 

Chapter One:

2 poems by Adrian C. Louis, poem by Sara Backer,

poem by Michael Spring

 

 

 

 

 

 

TWO POEMS BY ADRIAN C. LOUIS

 

 

 

 

Scene from a movie about life 

in a small Minnesota hamlet

 

This half-breed Indian smashed his vehicle.  No need to be taken to the hospital since I crashed into the damn hospital! Had an appointment, pulled into a parking space & (possibly) the fucking accelerator stuck.  Cue those old Batman sound effects.  Ka-Boom! Ka-Pow! Add some minor bumps & bruises & a major butt-ache for my insurance guy.  Behold me now, cruising this bright-white Minnesota village by taxi, as regal as any half-breed Indian you ever saw.

 

 

 

 

 Monstrosities

 

1. Finally, I have become unsalvageable. The very concept of America is a ghost to the ghost-boy who once uttered ¡Viva la Revolución! Today I slathered two pieces of dried Wonder Bread with “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter” & made me a monstrous cold beef stew sandwich. Where is Mario Batali or Mario Savio when I really need them?

 

2. I told my doctor that since a monster was elected to lead us, I’d need an Rx for medical monsterjuana. My BMW-driving doctor grinned, thinking I was making some kind of lame joke.  


 

 

 

Adrian C. Louis grew up in Nevada and is an enrolled member of the Lovelock Paiute Tribe. From 1984-97, Louis taught at Oglala Lakota College on the Pine Ridge Reservation. He recently retired as Professor of English at Southwest Minnesota State.  Pleiades Press published his latest book, Random Exorcisms, in 2016.  More info at Adrian-C-Louis.com 

 


 

 

 

 

POEM BY SARA BACKER

 

 

 

The Bad Lands Spoke

 

I mean, I heard them. Like cicadas and didgeridoo 

braiding my brain, masking the car radio. The sound

sifted through layers of ash and sandstone

over old black shale, crescendoed and faded from buttes

and canyons, overlapping, replicating, as if filtered

into my blood pressure.

I couldn’t stand it,

couldn’t understand it,

didn’t want it to stop.

 

At my first truck stop, off I-90 near Box Elder, 

tattooed men in idling rigs eyed my teenage legs.

A big burger filled my stomach, emptied my guts.

A torn towel on a nail was my view from the foul toilet,

but above a stained sink, an open window shone gold.

 

I still see that yellow sunset fading

over millions of years of sediment,

over thousands of inches of erosion,

an aftermath imbuing the sky with coral & tan

& gray of rattlesnakes that matched the ground.

As grays darkened, moonlight

translated folded rocks into books

I could never read.

 

No beauty 

was more honest

than this stark expanse

below a vast, star-punctured sky

where, by myself, invaded & surrounded

& protected by some inexplicable inner song,

I never felt less alone.

 

 

 

Sara Backer won the 2015 Turtle Island Poetry Award for her chapbook Bicycle Lotus published by Left Fork Books. She is author of the novel American Fuji. In 2016 she won a Fellowship. Her poems have appeared in Poetry, Seattle Review, Gargoyle, Pedestal Magazine, Poetry Northwest, Southern Poetry Review and Strange Horizons. She teaches at the University of Massachusetts at Lowell, and leads reading groups in a men’s prison.  She lives in the woods of New Hampshire.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

POEM BY MICHAEL SPRING

 

 

 

 

masks on the wall

 

 

masks on the walls are moving their mouths

I cannot hear what they say

ravens have my left-brain outside

punking it with their beaks

I’m startled yet entertained

 

a crack in the ceiling 

appeared the day love left me

is this why the masks are so desperate

to talk to me?

 

the crack is shattering the room

in slow motion

 

I’ll crank the music and pound the drums

I want to help the crack expand

until the ceiling caves in

and if I’m lucky the masks will be

smashed in the rubble

(did I just say that out loud?)

 

the masks try to talk to me

sticky voices try to stick to me

but most of my attention is sunk

into the darkness of the raven’s feathers

 

the masks look so silly chewing the air

I’ll walk away

I need to know who I am without them

 

the ravens did me a favor

given me a window out

 

I open my arms mimicking wings

yes I say yes they say

and my left-brain slides back to me

 

 

 

Michael Spring won the 2013 Turtle Island Poetry Award for his chapbook Blue Wolf, published by Dancing Moon Press. In 2016 his fourth book of poems, Unfolding the Field, was published by Left Fork Books. Also in 2016, he won a Luso-American Fellowship from DISQUIET International and was named the Centennial Poet for the Oregon Caves National Monument. Michael is a poetry editor for the Pedestal Magazine and the Editor-in-chief for Flowstone Press.

 

 

 

 

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