TURTLE ISLAND QUARTERLY 13
2 poems by Kirtland Snyder, 2 poems by Ann Struthers, poem by Martin Willitts Jr.,
poem by Cordelia Hanemann, poem by Gary L. Brower
Two poems by Kirtland Snyder
TONGUE OF STONE
In Pocantico, where I walk in every season,
Sometimes talking to myself or to the cows
That pasture there, or calling to coyotes
Trotting on the hillside or in the dense brush,
Today I mostly listened—to agitated geese
Alighting on the frozen lake, to the Morse code
A woodpecker tapped out high in a rotting oak,
To the wind clicking through black branches.
I followed my usual path through open meadow
And bare deciduous woods, up and down hills,
Along the sweep of the Pocantico River
Meandering darkly through whitened banks,
To a place where a rivulet cut across the path,
Tumbling down a slope in the swollen cascade
Snowmelt had made, then sluicing over
A tongue of stone to fall like notes into a pool.
I stood very still and listened closely to that rill,
That riddle of existence, that spill of syllables,
That run-on, never-ending sentence that kept on
Making perfect sense.
THERE WAS A GREAT PROFUSION OF GREY STONES
There was a great profusion of grey stones
On the hillside where I walked this twentieth
Day of November on a light crust of snow
Through which sprigs of long grass poked.
It takes a little bit of courage to walk in a cemetery.
It’s not so easy greeting the dead in the ground
By way of their markers so stolidly arranged,
Each stone grey and mossy in the damp chill.
Fog hung like gossamer netting against the evergreens—
Medicinal gauze, grey intonation—
And a big golden barked at me doggedly, unceasingly,
As if he bore some animus toward me.
Maybe he smelled my mortality. Maybe I smelled it.
If so, it was a sweet, wet air refreshed by this season
Of mists, mellow fruitfulness. Mellow fruitfulness.
How it stood up all around me like my very life.
Kirtland Snyder has published 3 chapbooks, won the Stanley Kunitz Award for Excellence in Poetry, been nominated for a Pushcart Prize, and had the distinct pleasure and honor of reading with Galway Kinnell at the University of Massachusetts some years ago. His Holocaust poetry is among the work of American and British poets examined in Professor Susan Gubar’s book, Poetry After Auschwitz (Indiana University Press, 2003). He has also published in Ms., Midstream, Stuff (The Boston Phoenix), Exquisite Corpse, notus/new writing, Modern Haiku, Longhouse, Poet Lore, The Hampden-Sydney Poetry Review, The Café Review, Shirim, The Adirondack Review, Flumes, New Works Review, Sanctuary, The Hartford Courant, Paramour, aspen leaves, The Boston Monthly, The Ardis Anthology of New American Poetry, Blood To Remember: American Poets on the Holocaust, and Veils, Halos and Shackles: International Poetry on the Oppression and Empowerment of Women.
Two poems by Ann Struthers
or how to overcome adversity
Only two leaves in its lifetime,
leathery, lapped like enormous rabbit ears,
onto the sand--whipped, torn, ripped,
shredded, baked in the featureless sun,
alone, only plant brave, tough enough
for the Namib Desert.
Rain comes in maybes, every four years
but Welwitschia's special pores drink in
dense sea fogs that ghost landward at dusk.
Heavy dews in the morning,
drain through into the barrel trunk
half buried in the sand.
Oldest, largest, only three feet high.
Red blossoms on spikes, seeds
patient in the sand forever.
Desperate places, Welwitschia finds a way.
Persistence, patience, secret sips.
Even Now with So Many Gone
Cedars of Lebanon
Heroes and gods loved you; Gilgamash slew
Khimbaba, for scent of sweet cedar
Phoenician traders sailed old Middle Sea
tight cedar ships, home to cedar-floored houses.
Egyptians priests journeyed to Biblos
to buy cedar resin to mummify pharaoh-gods.
David succumbed in Bathsheba’s cedar-scented rooms.
Solomon ordered cedar for the Temple in Jerusalem,
ordered the slaughter of cedar
for appropriate pillars
to their emperor-worship temples
Ottomans stuffed troop trains’ fireboxes
cedar logs, rare and precious
a perfumed smoke for their bodies
that had not yet married the bullet.
Cedars of Lebanon grow for a thousand years,
two thousand more noble branches like arms
outstretched, hold cone knots upright.
like candles of hope.
They cling to disputed mountains,
wind through the branches sings a lonely song
Even now so many gone still shade of cedar
scent of cedar,
Ann Struthers ' poetry has appeared in numerous journals including
POETRY INTERNATIONAL, THE NORTH AMERICAN REVIEW, CRAB CREEK REVIEW,
SNOWY EGRET, SUKOON (Dubai) and others. She has two collections and
three chap books. Another chapbook, ALEPPO BURNING, is forthcoming.
Poem by Martin Willitts Jr.
Maybe This Concerto I Play Will Suffice
what no one else understands
a touchable silence
the antithesis of wrens
burning the sky
cormorants on a lake
must believe they hold water down
with their combined weight
like someone practicing music scales
on a blue piano
and the lantern sun
reflects on the lake
ribbons of clouds are dragged away
by blue jays
pulling invisible strings
cobwebs trap the last raindrop
music trembles on the surface
all regret needs space
lake tide ebbs cautiously
memory is thicker
than years of leaves piled
on an untouched forest floor
seem to know this location
their red blending in quiet release
my heart tosses like milkweed seed
restless in water or flight
making a statement before they perish
Martin Willitts Jr is a retired Librarian living in Syracuse, NY. He has over 20 chapbooks including the winner of the Turtle Island Quarterly Editor’s Choice Award, “The Wire Fence Holding Back the World” (Flowstone Press), plus 11 full-length collections including “How to Be Silent” (FutureCycle Press, 2016) and “Dylan Thomas and the Writing Shed” (FutureCycle Press, 2017).
Poem by Cordelia Hanemann
Haze marks the July sunrise,
a tawny wildcat, owns the morning:
still shoulder, head, and half-raised lids—
Grosbecs make languid ablutions
in the tepid pool of my birdbath,
but no breeze enchants
a dance of Spanish moss
or even a whisper of leaves.
No wisps of night linger,
only the promise of heat
and the faint fragrance of one
last gardenia browning on its bush.
Morning’s torpid breath
condenses on glass doors
that barely keep encroachments
at bay. I feel it under my skin,
I who have come home to this:
specters forage with feline stealth
in the backwater bayou of my mind,
–my books and papers scattered
on the kitchen table, at my back.
After the deep sigh, after the open window,
after the curtain of air is drawn,
my thoughts converge on
foliage, plumage, bloom and
In the arc of a pending storm,
stillness and electricity,
prowess and stealth.
Cordelia Hanemann is a native of Southwest Louisiana, but the daughter of an army officer and diplomat, she has lived in Japan and London as well as in the US. She earned a PhD from LSU with a dissertation on the language of contemporary poetry and developed a career as a university professor. Her work has appeared in numerous journals, among which are Southwest Review, Mainstreet Rag, and Peacock Journal; anthologies, The Sound of Poets Cooking and The Well-Versed Reader and, just out, Heron Clan IV; and in her own chapbook, Through a Glass Darkly. Recently the featured poet for Negative Capability Press, her work was finalist in Sable Press's Poetry of Protest competition, and The Strand Project presented a monologue she wrote for performance. She is currently a practicing artist and writer in Raleigh, North Carolina. She is also working on a first novel, about her roots in Cajun Louisiana.
Poem by Gary L. Brower
My stepfather in the Army,
part of my childhood
was spent on military bases
in our blue, 25-foot, Red Arrow-brand
trailer with ice box but no bathroom,
shopping at PX and Commissary,
sometimes eating at the Mess Hall.
When told we had a week
to leave Ft. Dix for Ft. Sill,
replace north Jersey cold
with Oklahoma dust storms,
cinder blocks were removed,
trailer wheels re-placed,
hitch and brakes checked.
The next day, we left on a journey
where everything would go wrong:
Seven flat tires, leaky radiator,
a ditch that tried to devour our home-on-wheels,
a breakdown in the middle of the night,
waiting for a car part to arrive,
fears the old car would become Sisyphus on steep hills ,
brake problems, exhaustion from driving day and night,
sleeping in the car's backseat.
We ate Vienna Sausages, Pork n’ Beans,
or Spam out of the can,
played car games like “Your cows are dead”
where those you counted were lost
upon passing a cemetery,
or the license plate game-
counting how many state plates you see,
till we arrived at Ft. Dust, barely on time.
In nearby Lawton, there were board sidewalks
downtown, a sign on the jail saying:
“Geronimo was held here.”
Long after the Apache’s death,
the town seemed to palsy
at mention of his name,
ghost of a bogeyman from the past.
As children, in Saturday movie matinees,
we wondered why Indians always attacked the settlers,
victims so perfect in their goodness,
God-faring in their hope,
innocents whose trailers were conestogas,
why their circled wagons were burned,
women killed along with children like us,
the white settler’s heroic plight
deserving of last-minute rescue
as bluecoat cavalrymen swooped in to scatter
"pagan savages" who dared
defend their lands from white invaders.
We cheered the saviors with sabres
as if these films were Movietone News,
instead of propaganda.
Long after our Red Arrow
flew straight into Geronimo’s past,
I learned the history was false,
didn’t tell whose land was stolen,
who punished for resisting theft,
how land thieves became
the victim’s jailers, executioners.
blaming the victim
never felt so good,
learning your history
is a lie
will make you
when you learn it,
a fool if you deny it,
a fascist if you push
like a drug.
Gary L. Brower, Former Editor/Publisher of The Malpais Review