TURTLE ISLAND QUARTERLY 15
2 poems by Tom Daley, a poem by Marjorie Power,
a poem by Holly Day, and an essay by Chila Woychik
2 poems by Tom Daley
Deer could jump this fence,
but we close the gate with religious
regularity. The red of these apples
preens, deeper than satin, dark as garnet.
The black berries rasp,
their drupelets larger than gluten,
the kind that heals rather than incites
the ulcerative colitis.
We revive the old fenced-in compost,
where fishskins call out the paws
and masks of raccoons and other foragers.
No one knows the name of this rose,
only the proliferating pollen
that drifts over the dust
as the handfuls of motherbone
splash into the incoming tide.
The dog is interested primarily
in pockets of old urine
deposited in discreet snatches
among the stricken eucalyptus leaves.
She strains at her tether
and sniffs with a cautious correctness.
Every day now the fog
splits its moisture between
the tree houses and the skylights.
The children are gone,
tied now to the tide charts
of an opposite coast
where hurricanes crawl
their lorry loads of wind
up the unpredictable ladder
of nightmares and waist-high
Oh, sweeter than menthol
are the houses, perched
over the cliffs with their collapsing
vistas, and the three-quarters moon
interrupts the dinner guests
explaining, in stutters and smiles,
their peripatetic projects:
new chapters, new instructions,
brother-sister incest, restorative
justices, film photographs
reinterpreted, Fiats re-built,
porches retooled, animal
while the black walnut bread
swashes with the pan-fried halibut
that came in this morning
and was reserved especially for them.
All night the spotlights
of the commercial fishing vessels
kept us restless and scaly,
afraid of our rivalries,
ready for the dawn
which loosened that last morning
like a gentle tourniquet
and scratched with the feral indifference
of socks and a blanket knitted
from the sweetest
and coarsest of wools.
First Born Son at Bolinas Bay
We look for you in every innuendo,
look for where you squint your eye,
louche as a surfer bum.
We won’t condescend
to blame your hermit pain
for your incessant ridicule,
your overbite moustache
that conceals your broken teeth.
You could be kind
if kindness meant hegemony,
shepherding us, with objection,
from our fatherlessness,
a task you said you took on
only with lucid reluctance,
only with the nostril steam
only cartoon characters
can divert into intrepid
insolence. In your case,
it’s all trick and tumult.
It’s all molt, shedding
your desultory cruelties
on occasion, and noisily
exhibiting axioms of kindness
even a sated pelican
would never let slip
from its beak full of herring
the harbor seals relinquished.
Tom Daley’s poetry has appeared in Harvard Review, Massachusetts Review, 32 Poems, Fence, Denver Quarterly, Crazyhorse, Barrow Street, Prairie Schooner, Witness, Poetry Ireland Review, and elsewhere. Recipient of the Dana Award in Poetry and the Charles and Fanny Fay Wood Prize from the Academy of American Poets, he is the author of two plays, Every Broom and Bridget—Emily Dickinson and Her Irish Servants and In His Ecstasy—The Passion of Gerard Manley Hopkins, which he performs as one-man shows. FutureCycle Press published his first-full length collection of poetry, House You Cannot Reach—Poems in the Voice of My Mother and Other Poems, in the summer of 2015. He leads writing workshops in the Boston area and online for poets and writers working in creative prose.
poem by Marjorie Power
The new chickens
eat melon, salmon, steak.
They’re bred for olive green
and porcelain blue eggs, beyond
delicious, containing the secret to…
what was it? The article I read
scared me out of remembering.
Some new chickens wear diapers.
Children cuddle them indoors
where rooms grow larger
and become remote.
When I was a child, my neighbor
kept chickens. He let me stand
in their dim, shabby, stinking coop
throwing handfuls of dried corn.
Not one missed out, ever,
on the cluck-flutter rush.
Oh, I was a powerful child.
The spring equinox: a balancing
of lamplight and untethered fact.
For the next little while
we must proceed
with less and less access
to story; the brightest hours
will keep the new chickens at our door.
Marjorie Power is the author of ONCOMING HALOS, a poetry collection forthcoming from Kelsay Books. Her SEVEN PARTS WOMAN appeared in 2016 from WordTech Editions. She also has six chapbooks out from small presses, and poems in many journals and anthologies including THE FRONT RANGE REVIEW, POET LORE, THE ATLANTA REVIEW and THE RANDOM HOUSE TREASURY OF LIGHT VERSE. She lives in Denver, Colorado with her husband after many years in the Northwest. They have six grandchildren.
poem by Holly Day
I find the little cache of dog food and sunflower seeds
carefully tucked into the insulation of the attic
brought up from two whole floors below, and I wonder
if the mouse or rat who brought all of this food so far up here
knows something I don’t, is tapped into some cosmic channel
that warns only rodents of coming ice ages or cataclysmic meteor strikes.
I watch the squirrels out the window as they
get fatter and fatter as the trees give up and drop their leaves
wonder if they know something about the upcoming winter that I don’t
if I’m doomed to be trapped in my own house without food
eventually find myself in the frozen tundra of the yard
searching frantically for the acorns these same squirrels have left behind.
Holly Day has taught writing classes at the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota, since 2000. Her poetry has recently appeared in Big Muddy, The Cape Rock, New Ohio Review, and Gargoyle, and her published books include Walking Twin Cities, Music Theory for Dummies, Ugly Girl, and The Yellow Dot of a Daisy. She has been a featured presenter at Write On, Door County (WI), North Coast Redwoods Writers' Conference (CA), and the Spirit Lake Poetry Series (MN). Her newest poetry collections, A Perfect Day for Semaphore (Finishing Line Press) and I'm in a Place Where Reason Went Missing (Main Street Rag Publishing Co.) will be out late 2018.
Essay by Chila Woychik
This Sudden Passing
What is life? It is the flash of a firefly in the night. It is the breath of a buffalo in the wintertime.
It is the little shadow which runs across the grass and loses itself in the sunset.
(Crowfoot, the Blackfoot warrior chief)
Everything changes. What shone brightly yesterday barely flickers today. That new idea we stroked to life, now simpers in the shadow of someone else’s brilliance. The autumn field of waving stalks? We plowed it under, remember?
Surface ice drifts in small chunks along the shoreline. Further out the current riffles ice-less. Crushed limestone lines the shore and reflects the sun to a borax whitening of the gray, dirty rock. A mourning dove breaks the beachy spell, and jag brakes rumble from trucks along a road not far away. Power is noise and noise is power and the higher we go the longer we go, and the noise wears hard, this deep hateful blowing of impossible air, this continual droning, this roar of a thousand locomotives inside the only engine we wear.
We know when it’s time to move on, but do we know when it’s finally finished? Maybe so, but even then, we wake restless and crave news from other lands. We skim maps and pick at Google Earth for yet another event horizon, the missing rainbow and its elusive gems, while the transient heart beats and beats until it no longer does.
For now, we climb, and most of us without hiking boots. The air is cold. We’re higher, near the peak, mountains of clouds, white on blue, and the land meanders along basins with ridges and sand blown in sinuous patterns stretching halfway to somewhere. We’re passing over Mars, or maybe the moon—barren, brown, pocked and peaked. We are the explorer, a satellite circling a star. A large patch of green amid the brown and taupe and tan. There is water on this hard-won surface.
My forty-year-old thesaurus rarely gets used anymore; I thesaurus.com instead. Information-reach devastates our moments. Click-bait headlines and bite-sized announcements rewire our brain to oblige the quick and the cursory. There is nothing left hidden. Every secret, inner weaving, tiddling work, blares across an angel-less heaven. News grows obsolete in vitro and dies in transit. We listen to dated songs, relive “Heart of Gold” and “Rocky Mountain High.” We’re all legs and emotions, one more time. And I’m gettin’ old.
It’s colder now and we’re higher still, the highest yet. I slip into a parka, eat pecans. No one is singing anymore. We ached too long for a vaulting sun, and this is what we got. Our snowshoes have holes and straps, black, orange: southwest colors strung along an even jazzier sky.
This is the dream: To shuck youthful indiscretions and plunge, purposefully, into the meat of things. New worlds would spring forth, we tell ourselves, new moments for the history books. At least one page would be written better. Same same same better. But since we can’t go back, we’ll just have to live faster now.
German-born Chila Woychik has bylines in Cimarron, Portland Review (online), Silk Road, Stonecoast, and others. She won the 2017 Loren Eiseley Creative Nonfiction Award & the 2016 Linda Julian Creative Nonfiction Award. She is the founding editor at Eastern Iowa Review & has finished an essay collection she hopes to get published one day soon. www.chilawoychik.com