TURTLE ISLAND QUARTERLY 12
2 poems by Alan Catlin, poem by Roger Camp,
poem by Mark Liebenow, essay by G David Schwartz
TWO POEMS BY ALAN CATLIN
Self-Portrait with Beethoven
He was long beyond deafness when
I heard him first. The universe seemed
like such a limited place to be confined
by so few instruments. All of his dreams
have been digitally recorded now and mastered.
Our weak ears are merely imperfect vehicles
for his visions. Late nights, wearing
earphones, I whisper secrets to the Master.
Now, I begin to wonder what century it is
we live in or if we live at all, and who
is writing what, that's how mixed up music
Self-Portrait as Tchaikovsky in NY
There should have been a Russian river,
perhaps, The Volga, but there wasn't.
The Schoharie Creek was out of control,
not really a river but a force
stronger than a Russian Easter Overture
once the ice jams broke.
That force took down
a New York State Thruway bridge
and ten people with it to a muddy death.
Nine bodies were recovered.
The local papers concluded that if that bridge had
collapsed a few days later the whole
of the Easter day Thruway migration might have
ended up dead or on the edge.
Or with Tchaikovsky, considering chords for
a Pathetique, up to his neck in filthy
water, a whole symphony orchestra set up
on the banks consumed by cholera
waiting for direction.
The composer on stage or in transition
between composition and execution,
traveling with his recently published score.
The orchestra about to touch their instruments,
draw a bow across a string in our minds
when the bridge we needed to cross, disappeared.
Alan Catlin has been publishing stuff for five decades. His latest full length poetry book
is Walking Among Tombstones in the Fog by Presa Press. He is poetry editor of the online
journal misfit magazine.
POEM BY ROGER CAMP
We had bypassed Manzanita,
chamise chaparral and live oaks,
our denimed legs seasoned in purple sage,
a scrub jay, Arden’s azure lookout
shadowing us. Sunning on a ledge,
like a silent Arapaho
an Orange Whiptail Lizard’s
blinking eyes followed us
while bedded below in moist shade
a Spadefoot Toad crouched.
Modjeska, named after the
who brought Ophelia to life,
is a boulder crammed chasm
jammed like a cocktail glass
with ice. Stepping gingerly
rock to rock
like shore-bound egrets,
a rash avalanche
forced us to shelter.
In my haste to hide, my hand
slipped into a fissure
caressing something primal,
its smooth, serpentine coils
seductive as loins,
encouraging a second feel.
Striking an ancient chord,
my hand jerked away,
having twice shuffled off
this mortal coil.
Roger Camp lives in Seal Beach, CA where he gardens, walks the pier, plays blues piano and spends afternoons with his pal, Harry, over drinks at Nick’s on 2nd. When he's not at home, he's traveling in the Old World. His work has appeared in the North American Review, Pank, Southern Poetry Review, Atlanta Review and Spillway.
POEM BY MARK LIEBENOW
Of Mountains and Bone
Tetons, Wyoming, 1942
these prehistoric mountains.
Earth’s dark backbone
rising elegant in evening’s slant light.
Dense, wooded glens clothe the hollows
where an adolescent river carved through
glacial drift and sediment,
set the alluvial skein of land.
The Snake River flows beneath
bone cliffs its ancestor flooded,
under the watchful gaze
of the First Mountains.
I am being worn down, too,
leaving behind artifacts of words,
femurs of forgotten stories.
Mark Liebenow is the author of four books, including a book on hiking in Yosemite. His poems and essays
have been published in numerous journals, and his work has won the River Teeth Nonfiction Book Award,
the Chautauqua and Literal Latte essay awards, been nominated for two Pushcart Prizes, and named a notable
by Best American Essays 2012. He writes about grief for the Huffington
Post and on his blog (http://widowersgrief.blogspot.com).
ESSAY BY G DAVID SCHWARTZ
Why I Have A Beard
Since this is to be a short essay I will not say why beards grow ad don't grown. Nor will I give you a personal anecdote about my sister wanting a beard but being physically unable to grow one (until she came to be old). Nor will I explain follicles. I also will not go into depth psychology about my child hood puppy. I will only tell the simple truth. Most truth is simple because it does not have to get constipated with lies.
So, here. I grew a beard not for fashion reasons, nor political reasons and also not for religious reasons.
Its true that my shaving ability is not great.I use to cut and gouge my tender flesh often and found it awaked to dap tiny stripes of paper to cease the bleeding. (and they would be congealed and have to be ripped away, which took skin and left pain.
My wife appreciates my beard. She says it is soft and pleasant to her cheek.
I could lie and tell you I grew a beard to imitate presidents like Abraham Lincoln or mongrels like Genghis Khan or movie stars like King Kong, but I know my beard will never make me handsome, nor appropriate, or reiligo-politico.
But it does help me be warm in the winter. It is excellent to help me be more pleasant in the air-condition of the summer.
True story. My wife keeps our house at a brisk sixty-five (65) degrees in the pleasantly warm summer. The house is also kept at a similar 65 (sixty-five) degrees in the winter. My mother use to say we went on vacations for a change. Change is, I have been taught since childhood, good. That’s why I change my socks every single day, whiter they need it or not.
I just want to mention this, and let you think about it later, notice how close chance and chain and chance are spelt. I think this would make a good essay, so if I have time later, I may write it.
But, to continue and conclude I appreciate steadiness. And be it winter or summer, be it fall or autumn my beard keeps my face virtually the same temperature.
I wanted to report what that temperature is but I held a thermometer up and lost it in my beard. I also believe that is were a lot of my good thoughts go.
G David Schwartz is the former President of "Seed House", an on-line, interfaith community forum. He is the author of three books - " A Jewish Appraisal of Dialogue" (1994), "Midrash and Working Out Of The Book" ( 2004), and most recently "Shards and Stanzas" (2011). He is currently retired, and besides writing, he spends his time volunteering in his community with Meals On Wheels.