TURTLE ISLAND QUARTERLY 13
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poem by Lynda La Rocca, poem by Richard King Perkins II, poem by Molly Brown,
Essay by Amanda S. Creasey
Poem by Lynda La Rocca
One-hundred-thirty years ago,
this hillside was for fir and pine,
pasque flowers hidden by late snow,
aspen not gold but orange,
something iron in the soil
that grows today my carrots, sage, and chives,
that grows the rose hips.
And someone built a home here,
cobbled cabin in the forest,
ceilings low, the floors all tilted,
and a wood stove in a corner,
and one door
that was this someone’s pride,
the panels strips of tree trunk
smoothed and shaped,
black-stained and fitted,
with panes of glass,
real glass that gleams like ruby,
yellow moon on turquoise sea,
new purple wine.
The only neighbors up the pass,
but they would travel down
to stand before, behind this tinted glass,
their faces, hands reflected blush,
their skin all burnished copper.
Your work was good,
your door a welcome,
and a legacy.
I do not know you,
do not know your name
or why you left this door for me to open,
me to close,
where I can turn my world
to all the colors of the earth, the sky,
stretch out my hands,
Lynda La Rocca is a freelance writer, editor, and poet who lives in Twin Lakes, Colorado, with her husband, writer and photographer Steve Voynick, and their dog Luz. La Rocca’s poetry has appeared in numerous regional, state, and national publications, including The Wall Street Journal, The New York Quarterly, Frogpond (Haiku Society of America), U.S. Catholic, Colorado Central Magazine, Light Year, and Children’s Playmate. Her poetry books include The Stillness Between (2009, Pudding House Publications, Ohio) and Spiral (2012, Liquid Light Press, Colorado). Since 2004, La Rocca has performed throughout Colorado with the River City Nomads, a five-member, performance-poetry troupe based in Salida, Colorado.
Poem by Richard King Perkins II
For ten years you’ve been here
and the roof has held up
more or less.
When you leave
and small creatures
will enter through the ceiling
and we’ll all marvel
at them for a while
until the patchwork is finished.
The floor will dry,
the animals will disappear
and we’ll begin to notice
a greater absence,
something even the soft hymns
of trees in the nearness
cannot easily fill
Richard King Perkins II is a state-sponsored advocate for residents in long-term care facilities. He lives in Crystal Lake, IL, USA with his wife, Vickie and daughter, Sage. He is a three-time Pushcart, Best of the Net and Best of the Web nominee whose work has appeared in more than a thousand publications.
Poem by Molly Brown
morning on the fox
everything kaleidoscopes in caressing twos,
even where the thresholds gemini into hazier twins
and moss meets algae under the willow.
surely it cannot be for lack of company,
for all rivers lead to the five of woe —
even charon pilots new swimmers
in the quietly whispering rings of lost souls.
still in the chiffon of the morning sun
where the silt folds over the ashes
of rain from the night before.
surely it cannot be for thirst,
the parched cries of all the south flying birds
on an early day in november,
for all the stolen glass dreams of all the captives
in all the world are drifting here —
perhaps, like us all, the nightmares prove too much.
somewhere a long-broken prow of a skiff
rolls over and lists away.
Molly Brown holds BA degrees in Music and English from Bucknell University, where she was the winner of the 2014 and 2015 Julia Fonville Smithson Memorial Awards for Poetry. She is currently pursuing an MA in English, also at Bucknell.
Essay by Amanda S. Creasey
Out of Touch
“Sorry I’m late,” my colleague said, finding her place in the circle of desks at our monthly afterschool book club discussion. “My kids have been crazy this week.” Several others in the circle commiserated. “I don’t know what it is. There’s a full moon, so—“
“No there’s not,” I quipped, perhaps too quickly to pass as polite. The room grew quiet and everyone glanced at me. “It’s just a little Cheshire-cat, sliver of a moon right now,” I explained, trying to sound light-hearted, as if I hadn’t just snapped at my coworker for being so incredibly unaware of the current phase of the moon.
“Really?” she said, surprised and, thankfully, unoffended. “’Cause my Angry Cat calendar says it’s about to be a full moon.”
“Well,” I said, trying to sound pleasant and friendly, “Maybe your Angry Cat calendar really says it’s about to be a new moon. Maybe you’re just misreading the colors on the calendar. You might just have it backwards.”
My coworker laughed. “Yeah,” she said, “probably. But I like blaming Angry Cat better.”
Fortunately, the discussion moved on from there, but as my coworkers talked about life plans and finding meaning in a forum I was supposed to be leading, I spent the next few minutes marveling at how anyone could possibly be unaware of the phase of the moon on any given day, much less mistake an almost-new moon with an almost-full moon.
I am admittedly out of touch. My husband likes to (affectionately, I think) refer to me as a cave woman. Only recently did I figure out how to turn on the TV, cable box, and Roku, and I’ve only owned a smart phone for a couple years. Last year I finally learned how to organize and categorize the apps on said phone. For a long time, I didn’t even know how to turn my phone off; I could merely silence it if I didn’t want to be disturbed—and airplane mode and the do not disturb setting basically blew my mind. I never have any idea what the Kardashians are doing. I don’t know what good weeknight TV currently consists of. I have seen less than one full episode of Game of Thrones, and it was last fall before I saw my first episode of Downton Abbey (which, incidentally, I love). But how could someone be so out of touch as to not know the phase of the moon, something so much easier to observe and so much more natural to be aware of than whether Brad and Angelina are getting divorced? All you have to do is look up. I knew the moon had been full sometime in the last week or so, and I had been watching it slowly shrink throughout the course of the week as I walked my dogs each weekday morning before sunrise. It was much easier to keep up with than the Kardashians.
Some people spend a Sunday afternoon watching football or Nascar or Netflix. I prefer reclining on my hammock, strung between a maple tree and a wooden post in the middle of my yard, sometimes reading, sometimes sleeping, sometimes just soaking up the sights, sounds, and sensations of an afternoon. One afternoon last fall, I sat there so still for so long, that after a while, three little bluebirds lit on the grass just a foot or two from where I lay. One flitted up onto the hammock itself, landing on the chain near my feet, cocking his head at me, before flying higher up into the branches above me, his brothers joining him. A red-headed woodpecker landed on the trunk, an acorn clutched in his beak. A nut hatch and some cardinals came by, too. A bee buzzed around me, so close to my skin I could feel the breeze from his wings. I felt fulfilled. I felt serene. I felt totally in tune with my inner core.
And perhaps that’s why I was so deeply disappointed when, a few years ago, the administration at the high school where I teach posited students would not understand a cold read passage about the woods because they are too stuck to their devices to know what feeling connected to nature is like. I graduated from high school in 2002, slightly before we all became so completely dependent on our devices for, well, pretty much everything. Cell phones were fairly new on the scene, and I got my first during my senior year. It could text and make and receive phone calls. That was all. During that year, I worked part-time at a Panera Bread near my house. One day, one of the full-time employees, a dishwasher and food line worker whose head was often in the clouds, arrived late to his shift. When our boss inquired about the reason for his tardiness, he said he had been lying on the ground, staring up at the sky through the leaves of the tress, and had lost track of time just thinking about things. No one at work understood. Behind his back, they laughed at him--at how out of touch he was. Didn’t he wear a watch? Set an alarm? Check his cell phone? That was well over a decade ago. But I still remember it. Because I understood—and I still understand--the pull of the sky and the breeze and the birdsong and the sun filtering through the leaves.
I don’t know much of anything about pop culture or what’s trending (though I have noticed during my afternoon runs and morning dog walks that in my neighborhood, at least, teal front doors are all the rage). You might talk to me about a famous actor in some Hollywood blockbuster or a new device, and sometimes, I might pretend I know what you’re talking about. But the truth is, I rarely if ever have any idea. I just don’t pay attention. At least, not to those things. I do, however, know what this morning’s sunrise looked like, and I have taken special note of the sweet scent of lilac wafting over my backyard this week, courtesy of the newly-opened lilac bushes flourishing at the top of my driveway. I know the moon crested the trees across the street from my house at 12:29 AM today, and the little white dogwood outside my church window is in full bloom—though its pink counterpart on the other side of the building seems to have peaked last week. I know the forsythias along my back fence usher in the first sign of spring, followed by the dogwoods in the front yard, and then, in tandem, the azaleas and lilacs. The crepe myrtles will wait a little longer, for more of the summertime heat to creep in. I know the days have begun getting longer; these days, as my dogs and I finish our daily morning walk, the edge of the horizon is becoming a silvery gray or subtle, warm gold, replacing the winter months’ silken black, stubbornly holding on until long after 7:00 am. Maybe I am more in touch than I give myself credit for.
Amanda S. Creasey lives in Central Virginia with her husband and two dogs, two canine catalysts for ushering her love of animals to the forefront of her personality. She teaches high school English and works as a freelance writer on the side. Aside from writing, she loves the outdoors, and enjoys walking and hiking with her dogs, running, growing fruits and vegetables in her garden in the spring and summer, and tending to the plants in her greenhouse during the winter. She maintains Mind the Dog Writing Blog at amandasuecreasey.com. This piece is an expanded version that originally appeared in The Richmond Times-Dispatch.