TURTLE ISLAND QUARTERLY 13
poem by Kathleen Brewin Lewis, poem by Karla Linn Merrifield,
poem by Jenna Heller, 2 poems by Carol Hamilton,
poem by Sarah Bigham
Poem by Kathleen Brewin Lewis
There is no turning back, only turning.
Slim girl on floating dock, head bent over crab line.
Hand over hand, she tenderly pulls the line between her thumb
and forefinger, tricking the crab out of the river and into the net.
The girl becomes a woman who breaks
her mother’s heart. Has a daughter who breaks
her heart, has a granddaughter.
They all turn into old women.
The river bends out of view, sends its creeky fingers into the marsh.
You and me,
and all the grand, small things
that hardly mattered, and meant the world.
The water teems with silversides. Brown shrimp. Blue crab.
Kathleen Brewin Lewis is the author of two chapbooks of poetry, Fluent in Rivers and July's Thick Kingdom (FutureCycle Press 2014 & 2015). Her poetry and prose have also appeared in Southern Humanities Review, Valparaiso Poetry Review, Tar River Poetry, Cider Press Review, and Still: The Journal. She's a two-time Pushcart Prize nominee and Best of Net nominee, and received the 2017 First Place Award of Excellence from the Georgia Poetry Society. She loves travel, hiking, the National Parks, and her Lowcountry hometown of Savannah, Georgia.
Poem by Karla Linn Merrifield
Shift of Shape in the Real Magic Kingdom
to go once again
you cannot assume
the mantle of a she-panther
sated, dozing in
sun-dappled sabal shade
it will be some time
before you will be able
to growl in the night
nor can you begin
by donning the feral boar’s
as he scrounges for corms
in sandy thickets
rooting in the sodden earth
even though he calls to you
full of pride
in a familiar voice
as he scans
the salt marsh
a red-shouldered hawk
soars beyond your endurance
you are not ready
to fly above the curve of tides
as a diminutive palm sparrow
flitting amidst palmettos
or float as a velvet-brown bat moth
clinging to a pond apple tree
not yet—but one day—
it will be otherwise
one day you will become
as the periphyton
an algal form
Karla Linn Merrifield, a nine-time Pushcart-Prize nominee and National Park Artist-in-Residence, has had ~600 poems appear in dozens of journals and anthologies. She has 12 books to her credit, the newest of which is Bunchberries, More Poems of Canada, a sequel to Godwit: Poems of Canada (FootHills), which received the Eiseman Award for Poetry. She is assistant editor and poetry book reviewer for The Centrifugal Eye, a member of the board of directors of Just Poets (Rochester, NY), and a member of the Florida State Poetry Society, and The Author's Guild. She is currently at work on three manuscripts and seeking a home for The Comfort of Commas, a quirky chapbook that pays tribute to punctuation. Visit her woefully outdated blog, Vagabond Poet, at http://karlalinn.blogspot.com.
Poem by Jenna Heller
Big Bend Country
coyotes circle and yelp
rising to a frenzied ruckus
a church-meeting in the wild
tongue of the desert trickster
crowing at the crowning sun
heartbeat like a hornet’s nest
it’s below zero, much colder
than expected; ice slicked
between tent and fly, fingers
and breath scan the dark
the protective dome tucked
between prickly pear and honey
mesquite, horizon stretching
taut against the desert scrub
coyotes yapping maybe feet, maybe
yards, maybe just beyond the Rio
Grande Village, howling in Boquillas
Canyon, ranging over the Deadhorse
Mountains, dancing with flowering
giant daggers, spiked lechuguilla;
jackrabbit springs from beneath
creosote, startled by morning
dog-song, ready as the black-tailed
rattler to slip out, land a quick
meal before hiding from noonday
sun in lichen-encrusted limestone,
predator and prey all at once;
day splits from night and cries
crescendo into chaos then slow
devolution. Fearsome silence:
the birth of twilight safe in the warm
crook of the big river before booting up
for adventure along the Lost Mine Trail
in high hope of spotting mountain lion,
a stolen spectre among fossils
pick-pocketed from floodplains;
hot beyond hot – roadrunner
slaps snake against pebbled tuff
the death throes pounding;
coyote lopes along the scenic drive
sniffs the air, spooks and fades
like quicksilver and heat shimmers
on the Burro Mesa, the ever-watchful
Chisos Mountains looming patient
a promised cloudburst, caught
in the drama of Sierra Del Carmen
a window of blistering beauty;
bandit and friend all the same
Originally from the US, Jenna Heller now lives within walking distance of a swimming beach in Christchurch, New Zealand. Her writing has been published in various journals including BOMB, Poetry NZ, Takahe, Flash Frontier, and Popshot.
Two poems by Carol Hamilton
We here know it well.
Fingerprints of our ancestors
wait in dust on a windowsill
touched by wishes
for a glimpse of blue,
a hint of the remembered sky.
We know the scent
of smoke and scorch
whipped by raging fire.
Wherever blackjack oak
and cedar gather, clumped
about work sheds and houses,
scars of devastation are left
to remind us. These sere spots
stand out in summer.
Only the contorted
and scratchy fingers
of stubby oak are left
to claw at the sky,
no leafy green to counter
the relentless sun.
Our ancestors suffered of it
more than we, but still we speak
with our throats and hearts
parched, our tongues cleaving
to the roof of our mouths.
We are the Bible Belt. We turn
and turn all of those dry tongues
to the work of petition and prayer.
We are so happy to be here again,
just us and a tent and our wire hangers
for marshmallows and all the birds’ songs,
the agitated touching of leaves.
Only thin fabric treated to repel water
between us and the air and the lake
aglint between dark trunks trailing down
to narrow strips of asphalt.
Indeed, the silk-skinned water
is skimmed by swarms of bass boats
gliding around the point and into darkness.
The soft v’s behind pickup trucks
wait to retrieve and cradle again at dawn.
These keep the lake full of silent,
distant lives that slide out of sight
by some law of physics I do not quite
understand. We don’t belong here,
are the watchers and listeners
in others’ habitat. We come just
once a year. But for years we fill
our time full of rituals to embed us,
to resurrect ourselves.
We add our voices, our smoke,
make as much impression here
as anywhere. We, too, slip
around some bend and out of sight.
Carol Hamilton has recent publications in Paper Street, Common Ground, Louisiana Review, Pontiac Review, Sanskrit. Louisiana Literature, Off the Coast and others. She has published 17 books, most recently, SUCH DEATHS. She is a former Poet Laureate of Oklahoma and has been nominated seven times for a Pushcart Prize.
Poem by Sarah Bigham
View from the root cellar
It began with the radishes,
singing their folk song of puckering
summer sunshine before the rutabagas
wanted a turn and, given their girth,
often won the operatic competition
with their rippling, deep-throated arias
before the yams hinted
that talent was irrelevant as they and
the novelty purple potatoes would last longer
and grow sweeter with age.
Sarah Bigham teaches, writes, and paints in Maryland where she lives with her kind chemist wife, their three independent cats, and an unwieldy herb garden. A Pushcart nominee, her poetry, fiction, and nonfiction have appeared in Bacopa, Entropy, Fourth & Sycamore, The Quotable, Rabbit, Touch, and other great places for readers and writers. Find her at www.sgbigham.com.