TURTLE ISLAND QUARTERLY 12
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.
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.
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.