TURTLE ISLAND QUARTERLY 14
poems by Jane Yolen, Corinne Demas, John Macker,
and a book review of Michael Spring's Unfloding the Field
by Carter McKenzie
2 poems by Jane Yolen
Spring is Battling
Spring is battling its way
through mounds of blackened snow,
snirt as it’s called in Minnesota,
so my son, phoning from Minneapolis
tells me and it is too funny to be false.
The cardinals have been calling
back and forth across the still-white garden.
My favorite Carolina wren carols from a walnut tree
like a demented rock star on steroids.
Those damned starlings are nesting
once again in the bathroom exhaust fan;
nothing we ever do dislodges them.
There is already a soft pink haze
on the trees, a pastel painting of the season.
Spring will eventually win this war,
but the casualties have already been counted:
part of the barn fell down under the snow,
the driveway sports new wounds and a mouthful of mud,
an ice crack in the garage floor has grown into a crevasse,
and I have a temper that could skin a grown man,
should one find his way to my door.
The eggs, tiny buttons on the milkweed,
promise summer, and I hold them to it.
Soon the little caterpillars, shed their skins
like snakes, like veil dancers, like a woman
getting ready for a bubble bath.
Five languid times the paper rustle can be heard,
the shed skin found near the milkweed stands.
In that final shedding, silken cloak
turns into a hardened womb.
Oh, what metamorphs inside,
a worm has died that an angel might live.
Jane Yolen is the author of over 360 published books, NY Times bestseller, award-winning children’s book writer, short fiction has won Nebulas, 8 books of adult poetry, poems in many journals, have won Green Earth Book Award among other Nature-centered awards, author of Caldecott winning OWL MOON, 6 colleges and universities have given honorary doctorates.
poem by Corinne Demas
The Pond Alone
This is the pond’s time.
In the cottages puncturing its shore
Dogs, exhausted from barking
at shadows, sleep.
Cars lie still, windows half open.
Towels prickled with dew
hang like sloths on the clothesline.
Forgotten pails and shovels
frozen in place
on the sandy beach
where the last footprints have
the final word.
Wind pricks the navy blue
surface of water, and sunlight
tongues the silver underbelly
of each tiny wave.
Birds chitter in the underbrush,
frantic to say all they have to say
before everyone wakes.
Dragonflies hunt and mate.
The females lay their eggs
in the slender grasses
where the pond edges into marsh.
We are the only swimmers,
you and I.
The pond is as ours
as the sky.
We coast between
the known, above
the unknown, below.
Our feet white intruders
in that dark world,
We, intruders in
the pond’s private time,
the grace of morning.
Corinne Demas is the author of thirty-three books, including a poetry chapbook (The Donkeys Postpone Gratification), four novels (including The Writing Circle ), two collections of short stories (Daffodils or the Death of Love and What We Save for Last), a memoir (Eleven Stories High: Growing Up in Stuyvesant Town, 1948—1968), and numerous books for children. She is a Professor of English at Mount Holyoke College and a Fiction Editor of The Massachusetts Review.
poem by John Macker
the longest night
Watching winter come in from the window
a tree has grown 30 feet at the spot where ashes
were buried long ago. In the near distance,
some of them are bare and barely there. The stinking
sumac looks like a menorah, the tip of each branch aflame
in the sunlight, each flame a dim after dark glow. There are
salt flats in Bolivia that turn into a mirror that reflects the sky
during the rainy season. They call it the border between
heaven and earth. Tonight is the longest night of the year. Every
night in the diaspora is the longest, they pray to an earth
that will either swallow them whole or light their way. Tendrils of smoke rise
from each branch, the sky is deep enough to consume any flame.
Everyone remembers Jesus was born in the Middle East
and enjoyed the climate. The Star of Bethlehem glitters
between heaven and earth, is a Neil Young song,
it softens the hardened long night of the heart.
John Macker's Bio: Award-winning poet and essayist John Macker has contributed poems to Denver woodblock artist Leon Loughridge’s 2017 series of folios, Gorge Songs. His most recent book of poetry is Blood in the Mix (w/El Paso Poet Lawrence Welsh, 2015). He is also the author of Disassembled Badlands, Underground Sky, Adventures in the Gun Trade, Woman of the Disturbed Earth and The Royal Road: Impressions of El Camino Real among others. His essays on poets and poetry have appeared in Albuquerque’s Malpais Review (where he was contributing editor), Lummox Journal, Miriam’s Well, and Cultural Weekly. He has worked as a journalist, editor and bookseller. His work can be found, most recently, in the PoetsSpeak anthologies, “Hers” and “Water,” Mortar Magazine, Manzano Mountain Review and Grand Junction Sentinel. In 2006, he received Mad Blood magazine’s first annual literary arts award. He received the 2001 Colorado Arts “Tombstone” award for poetry in Denver. He lives and writes in northern New Mexico.
In Dreams Awake:
the Poems of Michael Spring's Unfolding the Field
Click on image for more info
Book Review by Carter McKenzie
In“ghazal for the cave,” from Michael Spring’s fourth book of poetry Unfolding the Field (Left Fork Books, 2016), the speaker asks: “mother of mycelium and root of dreaming / will you embrace me ...?” (p. 63) The poems of this collection offer in their transformative longing the quality of mycelium itself, which has the capacity to branch out for the creation of massive underground networks. Through lines of clarity and music, and sequences that open into portals of unexpected perspectives, Spring’s poems manifest a fierce embrace of the numinous, a journey seeking and engaging with the language of origin and relationship. They are poems of necessity—a destiny and a reclamation of “the sweet smell of roots / and the upturned earth.” (“Reclamation,” p. 14) They are also manifestations of release, offering spacious shape-shifting, in which the self’s shadow vanishes into fields that turn back “into coyote and jackrabbit,” (“The Circus Train,” p. 9) and a child’s willow branch becomes an instrument reflecting “the muscular inflections” (“to a child in the wilderness,” p. 39) of what might be the child’s imaginal symphony, the music of the body of a lake (ibid.). Often ecstatic, these poems embody immersions necessary for engagement with the earth’s wilderness that is the source of voice. In “Bear speaks,” the voice of the poem asserts the vastness of its identity and inheritance, what it will bring to the Other, the receptive one: “my head made up / of a thousand other heads / my eyes filled / with the light of a star / a star made up / of a thousand other stars. “ (p. 41). Here is generous, visionary poetry engaging the possibilities of connection and transformation through language rooted in its earth sources, and manifesting what Henry David Thoreau called “our truest life:” “when we are in dreams awake.”
Bio note: Michael Spring, of O’Brien, in southern Oregon, is a farmer and martial art instructor as well as a poet. He is the author of four poetry books and one children's book. His first book, Blue Crow, was translated into Portuguese by the University of the Azores; a selection from his second book, Mudsong, won The 2004 Robert Graves Award, and in 2007 Oregon State University Library and Poetry Northwest named Mudsong one of 150 outstanding poetry books in Oregon’s 150-year history; and his third book Root of Lightning was awarded an honorable mention for the 2012 Eric Hoffer Book Award. A recent chapbook, Blue Wolf, won the 2013 Turtle Island Poetry Award. His fourth book, Unfolding the Field, was published in 2016. His children's book, Woodwoo, the Little Sasquatch has just been released.
Michael Spring is winner of a 2016 Luso-American Fellowship from DISQUIET International, and is featured reading a poem, in collaboration with composer-musician Martin Birke, on the CD Your Sleekest Engine by Genre Peak (Gonzo Multimedia, 2016). He is also the founding editor of Flowstone Press.