TURTLE ISLAND QUARTERLY 14
poems by Kathleen Taylor, Michael Lauchlan,
Peter Neill Carroll, and Sara Backer
2 Poems by Kathleen Taylor
The Cold Eukaryote
These timorous, cemented tentacles
outstretched in trenches wait on plate
subduction. Bearing foreign bodies of
abandoned stars, our xenophyophore
performs the work of God. An atlas of
coarse mineral deposits punctuate
the skeleton. These sunk uranium
enriched specimen root tubers in
the mud, feed foot to gut. A scientist
slopes, persuades himself experiments
that profit white coat pockets pardon
biopsies of limb. Enveloped in
the cartilage are messages.
Decodable, inferior testaments.
The heart-bruised bombardier felt bitter in
her bifurcated abdomen. Disturbed,
defensive, popping noxiously, she smoked.
A breach occurred after her last molt.
Maturity exposed vestigial,
provocative blue appendages.
She found herself machine to virile engines
disrupting chemical equilibrium
after each union. Her humors stopped
approving after that. She sought quarters
in a sodden fissure to dispose of
surfeit fetors. Postured on her back,
she purged. She bathed in her own toxic stream.
She exacted complete evaporation of her genes.
Kathleen Taylor is an MFA candidate, specializing in poetry, at the
University of California, Riverside where she serves as
poetry editor for Santa Anna River Review. Her work has
appeared in New Limestone Review, Peacock Journal, Foothill
Journal, Southern Women's Review, The McNeese Review,
and White Stag, among others.
poem by Michael Lauchlan
Raise it again man./ We still believe what we hear. Seamus Heaney
Song of fenders of a car junked
after oil drained and engine seized,
of a hardware broken down
and broken into, of sheet metal screws
scooped from bins. Song
of the Michigan Central Station,
its evanescent interiors, its hope trains
and grief trains, of red bricks
from a church crushed to make
more room for GM,
of charred timbers from one
blown up by the Klan.
What does it mean to sing,
to take in breath and let out gift,
to shake as though in the throes,
as though we do this wholly
of the body when we’re blowing out
mostly soul--not only ours,
but everyone who ever sat
around our table, and everyone
who should have sat here
but died instead or stayed behind
in Glascow, Slovenia, or Cork?
Harold McKinney sits here,
his lined face and big voice,
though he’s been gone years.
Once he stopped between sets
to hold a baby we’d taken out
in the snow and wind to hear him
play at a downtown bar--Ray,
his brother on bass--bringing back
Ellington, Monk, ragtime and blues,
the torn story, its ache and its arc.
Michael Lauchlan's poems have been included in anthologies and have landed in many publications including Turtle Island, New England Review, Virginia Quarterly Review, The North American Review, Ninth Letter, English Journal, The Dark Horse, Tar River Poetry, Harpur Palate, Collagist, Summerset, Southword, Poetry Ireland, Valparaiso Poetry Review, Sugar House Review, Canary, Lascaux Review, Marathon, The Punch, and Barnstorm.
His most recent collection is Trumbull Ave., from Wayne State University Press.
poem by Peter Neill Carroll
Back then, heads of household were men
gray at the temples who could fix any leak.
Jack, senior bowling champ and waspy Son
of the Golden West, built all four rooms himself.
McNally, Boston-born war hero, boxed
wholesale produce at the San Francisco market.
The two 49er fans dragged underground wire
and cable for Pacific Gas & Electric.
The fire fighter died too young. Ditto
the software guy, installed my anti-virus, twice.
Widows cling to homes with good bones,
leave doors open for their adult sons.
The boys of meager opportunity, bless them,
take care of overgrown trees, the yard weeds.
Daily they bring in the mail. I see them Wednesdays,
dragging recycling bins, wheeling back empties.
We talk about the hawk at the pinnacle of my redwood,
deer eating lemon trees, the advantages of wood chips.
When possible, I pay them for mechanical tasks
beyond my reach, my strength, my age.
Soon but not quite yet I’ll be like their lost fathers,
and the aged mothers will leave deep gaps, in time.
The first choice I faced here—
an appliance warranty—five years or ten?
I picked None. Still I linger, though now, as
ever, there’s no need to repair my idle rooms.
Someday a wrecking ball and the backhoe,
will straighten all my crooked walls, and
some ungrateful millionaire will fill everything
unfulfilled by my hesitations, plain neglect.
I’ve watched this quiet village stretched thin
like a frayed rubber band about to snap.
Peter Neil Carroll’s newest collection is a narrative poem, An Elegy for Lovers (Main Street Rag, 2017). Other titles include The Truth Lies on Earth (Turning Point Press, 2017); Fracking Dakota: Poems for a Wounded Land; and A Child Turns Back to Wave: Poetry of Lost Places which won the Prize Americana. His poems have appeared recently in Southern Humanities Review, Tar River Poetry Review, Spillway, Poet Lore, Southern Quarterly, Chiron Review, Amsterdam Quarterly, and The Aurorean (nominated for a Pushcart). He is the Poetry Moderator for Portside.org
2 poems by Sara Backer
I Notice a Nest
A gray mummy head dangles—
a hanging lamp in a foyer—
but instead of lighting the inside,
it darkens the outside.
My urge to look into the black slit
a-crawl with wasps—thwarted
by an instinctive flinch,
the way you can’t stare at the sun.
The Green Room
The sunrise surfers wake and walk and wait in darkness
through mist or rain, as gray dawn evolves
an edge of yellow, pink, or paler gray.
Each morning, these surfers paddle into cold wet salt
to find the line where weighty water breaks
and wait again for waves—flat or barrel,
smooth or chop.
Regardless of weather, sky, or waves, they practice
balance and strength,
entrance and exit.
The powerful part of the wave is the pocket
ahead of the break.
The word love—like dude—can mean anything
depending on inflection.
The heart releases trauma when it loves,
when it takes the drop
into the tube and soars
through the green room
on and under the ocean.
The perfect wave does not show up for us;
we show up for it, embracing imperfection,
even when waves draw back and expose the sea bed—
even when they suck the sea bed dry
and strand us in sand and rotting kelp—especially then.
For love is not a gift but a job:
every morning no matter what
into the ocean.
Poet and novelist Sara Backer was raised in Massachusetts and Oregon. She earned her BA from Oregon State University and MA from the University of California at Davis. She is the author of a novel, American Fuji (Penguin Putnam 2001), and a hybrid chapbook of poems and essays, Bicycle Lotus (Left Fork 2015), which won the 2015 Turtle Island Poetry Award. She received fellowships from the Norton Island Artist Residency Program and Djerassi Resident Artist Program, and has garnered Pushcart nomination for poems, essays, and short stories. After having lived in Costa Rica and Japan, she currently resides in New Hampshire