TURTLE ISLAND QUARTERLY 13

Summer-Fall/2017

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Chapter One:

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

Welwitschia Tree
  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,

 

Augustus, Nero, 

   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

   a blessing     

scent of cedar,

                          Holy.

 

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

 

rain murmurs

what no one else understands

a touchable silence

 

the antithesis of wrens

burning the sky

with song

 

cormorants on a lake

must believe they hold water down

with their combined weight

 

bobbing

like someone practicing music scales

on a blue piano

 

sadness glistens

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

whispers

stay

 

*

 

memory is thicker

than years of leaves piled

on an untouched forest floor

 

only cardinals

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

Louisiana Dawn

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

 

RED ARROW

I

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,

several almost-accidents,

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.

 

 

II

 

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.

 

As children,

blaming the victim

never felt so good,

as adults,

learning your history

is a lie

will make you

an outlaw

when you learn it,

a fool if you deny it,

a fascist if you push

these lies

like a drug.

 

                                                                               

Gary L. Brower, Former Editor/Publisher of The Malpais Review

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