TURTLE ISLAND QUARTERLY 22
featured poet: Peter Grandbois ( 3 poems),
with special feature:
Ukraniane poet Lyudmyla Diadchenko/ translated by Padma Thornlyre,
2 poems by Joan Mazza, poem by Lorrie Ness, poem by Sara Backer,
poem by Elisabeth Harrahy, 2 poems by Tamara Kaye Sellman,
poem by Leonore Wilson, poem by Mary Beth Hines, poem by Michael Spring, poem by Robert Beveridge, 2 poems by Charles Rossiter,
and another special feature: 3 poems by contributing editor Jared Smith
featured poet: Peter Grandbois ( 3 poems)
I have been alone a long time
I haven’t heard my voice in weeks
If time is not a line, perhaps
It is an ocean
In which we attempt to swim
Or a cold wind
Blowing through us
Here we are, together
In this ocean
Riding this wind
We’ve been here before
I see your face
As if from the other side,
Along the shore, two sandpipers
Hurry back and forth
I step closer
It’s my face I see
Kneeling in the cottage
Praying to the dying light
I cannot find the morning
Beneath the black ice from last night’s rain.
The wind cries like a drunk through the trembling
Pane, and the man I am becomes a tree again
Silence rooting itself in the tide of breath
Cold rolling through half-heard seasons
As we drink deep of this river Lethe
Reciting our own prayers of reason
So many ways of searching for the hole
In the belly of this half-forgotten world,
Where fog falls like a roll-call of ghosts
Lost in the ebb and flow of anger’s whorl
I’ll never understand what keeps you there
Naked in memory’s mended light
So let me point to the tear in my heart
And let’s simply forget about who is right
The fairy tales warn you
Do not shuttered walk
Through ink-dark woods
Breath shuddered beneath
Suffer not blind earth’s
Tongueless murmurs that
Speak only of heart’s husk
With voice of stung regret
No grace falls weeping
Here in sweep between
Seeping lake and grievings
Sieved from muddy dusk
No end to ache welling
Through wake of moon’s
Un-sung eclipse, the
Bitter pluck of world-string
From night’s long ellipse
The choice is yours, the
Trees are asking, the grass
Begging with blood of
The thorn has always been
The thistle still wrapped tight
This cup of emptiness—
Peter Grandbois is the author of thirteen books. His work has appeared in over one hundred journals. His plays have been performed in St. Louis, Columbus, Los Angeles, and New York. He is poetry editor at Boulevard and teaches at Denison University in Ohio. You can find him at www.petergrandbois.com.
Ukraniane poet Lyudmyla Diadchenko/
translated into English by Padma Thornlyre
Намацуючи себе…така жінка: та мерланові коси
очі аріїв тобто морської хвилі кольору і глибини
ніс рахилі вдача її. надто коли ті що не просиш
вчити приходять казати що думають і чого не думають вони
нижче дідові руки: тобто хазяйські . дід би радів та не застав
вся ця порода:переконують а ти своєї : мовчки і струнко
треба було взяти живучість прабабці : хоча би до ста
нащупую себе…така дівчина. панна. пустунка
не пішла у бабусю ту що малює квітки
не пішла в тих що покірні були іванам кирилам їм тьма
граючись. боліючи пізнавати крізь супротив себе ж таки
така жінка така дівка. таке дитя
Groping to find myself … I am a woman of Tamerlane’s hair,
Scythian eyes — sea-waves in hue and depth,
And Rachel’s nose, especially her countenance when uninvited strangers
Come to proselytize their beliefs and disbeliefs.
Beneath Grandfather’s ghostly hand, I see him smile:
When missionaries preach, his progeny stands silent and slender.
I want Great Grandmother’s vitality, even at a century.
Groping to find myself … I’m such a girl. A maiden. Mischievous.
I do not resemble my Babusyu,* who paints flowers.
I do not resemble those who submitted to John Cyril† and his ilk.
Playing, aching to know myself by resisting these self-contradictions:
Such a woman, such a girl. Such a child.
Translated by Padma Thronlyre
† John Cyril, true to Ukrainian tradition, is a deliberate conflation of the Apostle John, who is credited for writing Revelations, and St. Cyril (826-869 CE), credited with evangelizing the Slavic peoples and inventing the Cyrillic alphabet.
Що торік одягати личило тепер на викид
як морфлот застарілий що сточила іржа
не наслідувати пар одомашнених звиклих
знаєш як неминуче від «люба» доходять до слова «чужа»
будем старатися прикрашати веселкою декольте
фарбувати очі безумством неприховано дуркувати
але час минув. його шкода він і є усе святе
так я знаю тепер коли сходиться осінь із холодом в ніч на п’яте
коли й ти знов не проти зайти де такі гріються
але тепер заняття посилати в дорогу як навчив керуак
виявляється не любити можна. і я вмію це
не любити. не . любити. отак
What suited you only a year ago — you now forsake,
Like an outdated, obsolete flotilla corroding to rust.
Refusing to emulate couples with their domesticating habits,
Whomever you call “darling” is inevitably exotic.
We tried to decorate the neckline with a rainbow,
To paint raving eyes, to openly mess around,
But our time ran out. And it’s too bad. All time is holy.
I know now that autumn beds winter on the night of the fifth,
But now, when other men warm to me, you beg to return.
My lesson for you? Hit the road, as Kerouac taught.
Turns out that not loving is possible. That I can master it.
Don’t love. Don’t love. Just like that.
Translated by Padma Thornlyre
Умієш літати? я закохана в горизонти
з ними й живу віддаюсь їм футболю ногами
холодні. прошу їх щороку в листах до санти
і такі здалеку як перегук мугамів
то слонами закидані то голі як жіка після рук
чоловічих. то м’які на око нібито з пластиліну
якби містом була то тільки в якому мардук
ночував обіцявши місту що не покине
горизонтів! де небо у землю аж по торік
що я бачила? що я знала? а невловимим ся тішу
взагалі – якщо летіти – в горизонту має бути інший бік
подзвони: перерви мою – передай свою мені тишу
Can you fly? I’m in love with horizons —
I live with them, give myself to them; they are footballs to my feet.
I ask every winter in my letters to Santa
For distant echoes of the mugham,
For horizons strewn with elephants, for naked skies like women in men’s
Hands — soft on the eye, formed from plasticine.
If I were a single city, let it be where Marduk
Spent his nights, pledging never to abandon its ziggurats.
Horizons! Where the sky burned into the Earth, until last year.
What did I see? What did I know? I rejoice in what’s elusive.
Generally — when flying — there must be another side to the horizon.
Call me. Interrupt my silence — and give me your own.
Translated by Padma Thornlyre
Осінь у вікнах гуси в ключах колір розлитий
менша зворотів прикметникових у кожному дні
спрощується мова тож писати про що нам жити
не розумію як правильно зараз мені
довгі описи з однорідними обставинами причини
все ж не пояснюють де ми зробили не так
кожний вечір без тебе нагадує: недовчили
вміти ходити по цвяхах і по дахах
стиснути осінь в обіймах як рідну і любу
загадати дожити удвох принаймні до ста
спрощується моя мова а з твоєю нічого не буде
твій герундій і перфект не зникне на вулицях ні у листах
Autumn fills the windows — geese in skeins, colors spilling.
Fewer inverted adjectives every day,
My own language has so eroded that I no longer understand
How to write down what we’ve lived in such a way that’s right for me:
Tedious descriptions of homogeneous circumstances
Still do not explain where we went wrong.
Every night without you reminds me, we never learned
To walk on nails or rooftops,
Or squeeze the autumn as one familiar and beloved,
Living together for one hundred years.
I’ve had to simplify my language, but yours remains intact — your gerunds,
Your perfect tenses, will fade neither from the streets nor from your letters.
Translated by Padma Thornlyre
BIOS. FOR LYUDMYLA DIADCHENKO AND PADMA THORNLYRE
Lyudmyla Diadchenko was born in the village of Kyrylivka, also the birthplace of Ukraine's national poet, Taras Shevchenko (1814-1861 CE). Fittingly, she attended Kyiv's Taras Shevchenko National University, where she earned her Ph.D. in Literary Theory. She is Vice President of the Ukrainian Writers Association, and her three books (to date) include 2017's A Hen for the Turkish Man, named among the 10 best books published in the Ukrainian language that year. She and her American translator, Padma Thornlyre, have recently accepted an invitation from Portland, Oregon's No Reply Press to publish an exquisite, fine-press, 400-copy limited edition of 24 poems, Magnetic Storms, which will be presented in the original Ukrainian side-by-side with the English translation, in letterpress on handmade paper and cover stock that will also be hand-bound. Lyudmyla and Padma are now working on a manuscript of poems not included in Magnetic Storms, currently under the working title, Interrupt My Silence. As of this date, Dr. Diadchenko remains in Ukraine, where she is in hiding. Although she unintentionally left a large body of her poetry in her Kyiv apartment after the shelling began, she recently rescued them, and is shaken by what she saw.
Padma Thornlyre is a Colorado native who relocated to Raton, New Mexico in 2018. He holds his B.A. in English from Coe College and has published nine volumes of poetry, most recently The Anxiety Quartet (2020-2021), all from small presses. Of Ukrainian (Jew) and Scottish descent, Padma took a deep-dive into Ukrainian literature (especially the women) more than a decade ago, thanks to the catalog of Canada's Language Lantern Publications, and consequently brings an understanding of Ukrainian cultural and literary distinctiveness to the table. Although he does not know the Ukrainian language, he employs an online Ukrainian-English dictionary for his initial, word-by-word translations of Diadchenko's poetry, which he then reworks into contemporary American English. He is especially grateful for his cordial relationship with the Ukrainian poet herself, who helps guide him in hammering out her vision. Padma is the creator of Mad Blood, which has since 1990 provided (often private) venues for literary, visual and performing artists to present their work, and is about to reemerge as a literary/arts/cultural magazine after a 16-year absence. He is also the founder of the poetry co-op, Turkey Buzzard Press, about to release its 34th title, poet Michael Adams' posthumous Dancing at the Crossroads.
Lyudmyla Diadchenko are selections from My Silence (working title)
2 poems by Joan Mazza
Blame the weight of headlines
that press down to smother with news
of glaciers melting, repeated wildfires,
locusts devouring the food supply.
Fear makes me want to return to old
remedies and rituals of rosaries, prayers,
that TM mantra I purchased in 1991. I’m
searching for a proper labyrinth among
my wooded paths where ghost pipes
grow in secret, obliged to sing the thirty
calls of the Carolina wren. My life is beans
and rice, bread and almonds, poems read
aloud by people dead for fifty years.
Despair is like drowning, the scent
of inhaled seawater blue and gold. Remind
me I know how to swim, won’t go over
the edge. I thrive and live out my years,
as did all those in my lineage. Every plant
and animal I see has endured, victors
in this struggle for survival amid food
shortages, droughts, and war. My ancestors
didn’t die in the Black Death, didn’t succumb
to cancer or heart failure until long after
they passed their genes to me. Life is a maze
of valleys and obstacles, a puzzle we solve piece
by jagged piece. Durable in all weather,
I’m stone and lichen, filled with other
organisms like any handful of black soil.
Grateful for Distractions
I wake and say thank you to stacks
of books around my bed, long stories
I can fall into and forget deaths added
to the climbing daily toll. Cookbooks,
genetics, paleontology, history.
Stored in boxes, music on cassettes
I haven’t heard in years. Old photos
still not scanned that will surely spark
another poem. Art supplies special
ordered still wait in new packaging call
my name. Without news on the radio,
I hear crows on the kitchen scraps
on the edge of dense woods, even with
the house closed against July’s record
breaking heat. I resurrect the big book
of sewing designs by Simplicity to page
through while I discern their paper patterns.
Now I bake Bundt cakes, madeleines,
cornbread shaped like corn in special pans
I bought and used only once. On the coffee
table, a crate waits filled with books
of writing prompts I promised to peruse
when I said I’d write one every day
for long months of quarantine.
The days run into one another, each one
a month, like the summers of my youth
except I know better than to sit out
in direct sun. In my silent house, I hear
my thoughts leap though their predictable
gymnastic phase at 3 AM. I’m normal,
not going crazy or believing in aliens
or conspiracies. Another 1200 dead.
Oh, look! I could draw from photos in my
field guide collection. Because it’s too hot
outside and the woods are full of ticks,
I’ll copy frogs and mushrooms, graduate
to birds and bees and butterflies.
Joan Mazza has worked as a medical microbiologist, psychotherapist, seminar leader, and has been a Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominee. Author of six self-help psychology books, including Dreaming Your Real Self (Penguin/Putnam), her poetry has appeared in Rattle, The MacGuffin, Mezzo Cammin, Slipstream, and The Nation. She ran away from the hurricanes of South Florida to be surprised by the earthquakes and tornadoes of rural central Virginia, where she writes poetry and does fabric and paper art.
poem by Lorrie Ness
We were on the water the first time
I formed a loop and cut it through with my knife.
Blue and white plastic, suddenly unspun,
pulled apart the way orange roe swells to fill split skin
in the wake of a blade across the belly. He showed me how to cope
with a frayed end. With the flick of a Zippo
singed strands of nylon drooped before he crushed them
together between his thumb and finger.
Offshore again and neon rope dangling from my fist cuts
the grey haze, coils against the hull.
Its suppleness betrays
the tension required for strength. He sits on the bow
one foot sprawled on the railing, another curled behind.
His movements are practiced. Fishing
inside his breast pocket. Tapping the cellophane end
until a Marlboro shimmies out.
There is the pucker. A calloused hand concealing
an open flame, and then the draw.
Without even looking, he passes the lighter over his shoulder,
pulls the cigarette away from his lips.
I think of the first day he handed me the club,
silver eyes open the whole time
as I swung it down. Scales splattered my bibs
while he looked on, taking drag after drag.
Today, he’s cut the engines while I tie off buoys,
set pots before slack tide. Today,
my fingers will burn.
Lorrie Ness is a poet writing in a rural corner of Virginia. When she’s not writing, she can be found stomping through the woods, watching birds and playing in the dirt. Her work can be found in numerous journals, including Turtle Island Quarterly, THRUSH, Palette Poetry and Sky Island Journal. She was nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2021 and her chapbook, “Anatomy of a Wound” was published by Flowstone Press in July of 2021.
poem by Sara Backer
As I Turn Off the Light
Oh, Moth, I, too, steer by moonlight.
I never thought the night sky could be rigged
against me. We beat ourselves against glass panes,
confused by lamps. They say we’re in love with light,
but that’s not true—we don’t want to go inside.
We are determined to fly even as we struggle,
weaken, and spiral into hot bright death.
The rest of us, disrupted, disabled, no longer
pollinate or procreate. Fast or slow, death
is contagious. Yours sets the path for ours.
Sara Backer’s first book of poetry, Such Luck (Flowstone Press 2019) follows two poetry chapbooks: Scavenger Hunt (dancing girl press) and Bicycle Lotus which won the 2015 Turtle Island chapbook award. She holds an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Art and reads for The Maine Review. Recent and forthcoming publications include Tar River Poetry, Slant, CutBank, Lake Effect, Poetry Northwest, and Kenyon Review.
poem by Leonore Wilson
And the children dabbled their fingers
in the ruse
of brook water;
one boy would tug
the hook out of the gills
of a wild trout
spirit from matter;
and beauty was a little boat,
a lolling fawn of shyness
as if the world
settled down to slumber;
and the mist rose quietly
too softly to hear exactly
what secret it shared,
we would all plunge together at last
in the abraded tongues
of rivulets while now and then
a yellow warbler
the branch of the wild
or low on the osier dogwood
and into the untame
hillocks that lifted once
from the skin of earth,
and so which gods
had surrendered themselves
to the milk snake of hours
which gods, whose strong
of hands were afraid
and what did they teach us
but that we were as feral
as each rifted mammal,
as the porphyry
of bones buried in bedrock,
the pine siskin
with its lip of longing
like hope that pins itself to desire;
and didn’t we feel
lies in the body fragile
as the early mothers
and would never
again know that curious
Leonore Wilson is a professor of English and creative writing. Her work has been in such magazines as Quarterly West, Iowa Review, Terrain, Rattle, Third Coast, Madison Review, etc. Her historic ranch and house burned down recently in the LNU wildfire of Napa Valley.
poem by Elisabeth Harrahy
The Truth the Birds Know
Watched over by a mob of crows that fuss and call as old crones
the man and the woman stride through the forest on leaves tossed
by gnarled branches of ancient oaks. Leaves like rose petals guide
them to a meadow bright with sunlight and the red, ripe fruit of sumacs
that stand at attention as the two pass through to where the path ends
in a stony slope. The man and the woman descend, find themselves
on the edge of a musky moat, thick with calla lily and alluring
but poisonous nightshade. They pause to look at one another before
joining hands, leaping onto a rotting plank that draws them like a vein
past the stagnant pool, pungent with decay, toward the heart of the bog
and on their way, tufts of cotton from the tussock sedge fly in celebration
and the white flowers of the leatherleaf lift their tiny heads. In the center
of the peatland, showy lady slippers wait beside a bed of sphagnum
that floats precarious over acidic water. Overcome by heat and hunger
the man and the woman undress before sinking into the velvet moss
that undulates in time as they move entwined among the carnivorous
plants sprouting ravenous, their mouths opening to bare pink throats
like pitcher plants seeking to be quenched, their sticky skin glistening
like sundews laid bare, needing to be nourished. The man and the woman
feed on each other in this secret place, secluded by a wall of tamaracks
while a cricket trills a serenade. And the man and the woman are satisfied—
they are fed. A pair of cranes flies overhead.
Elisabeth Harrahy’s poems have appeared in Zone 3, Sky Island Journal, Passengers Journal, The Café Review, Plainsongs, Ghost City Review and elsewhere. Her work has been nominated for Best of the Net and she received an Editor’s Choice Award in the Paterson Literary Review’s 2021 Allen Ginsberg Poetry Contest. She is an Associate Professor of Biology at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater.
2 poems by Tamara Kaye Sellman
QUEETS RIVER INVOCATION
Then came gravel,
Ferns crowding the road.
Dust in pillows behind us.
We were never alone.
Instead, remote. We were there.
Each summer, a divination.
More shadows, mosquitoes.
Bits of robin’s egg blue
broken into triangles
by the shadow canopy,
or else lost inside
Old Man’s beard.
The crucible, barren,
cold upon arrival.
Our circle. Energies.
Hardpan earth tamped.
Layers of needles.
A party of gathered
The red hand pump cranked.
Buckets of water
dripping many paths.
Then, our fire.
A pot over flame.
Broken bread. Bottles
of red wine passed.
The harmonica bleeds.
Woodsmoke as sacred
perfume. A night cathedral
of fir and larch. Witnesses.
We inscribe regrets,
newsprint fed to this altar,
ashes flushed to the sky
a holy smudge.
Laughter at familiars
lead us midnight blind
to tents trenched inside sigils,
pitched beneath a web
of tarps. High. Expectant.
Then came the morning’s
LOVE LETTER TO A GRANDMOTHER
I saw you, the moment you passed, in the gaze of a narwhal
breaching alongside the sinking galleon where friends and I
were playing cards. I’m not sure what caused the capsize.
The hold filled with water on that blustery, white-sunned
March morning, the waves like deep blue bowls lipped in
cream. We were poets, elbow to elbow at the table, out
for a dream’s excursion in Admiralty Inlet. We knew of sails
and salt and spray and wind but not of the horned, barnacle-
crusted whales circling the tilting bow. The boat shuddered.
Jacks and spades and jokers flew like scared birds. We tumbled
from benches, clinging to the mast, the rail, the ancient rudder’s
spindled wheel until the great turning, then plunged into icy
ocean clear as bubbled Spanish glass. You must have known
I still feared deep water then. When your calcified spiral rose,
I wrapped my hands around it, a child clinging to a parent’s
forefinger. You launched me from the freeze; I watched
the skin of seawater drain from your crown. In that ancient,
rheumy eye I recognized your wink, same as that last time
in Sequim when I knew in my marrow I’d never see you again.
When I woke, my stomach was still lost at the bottom of the sea,
sweat cold at my neck, and I shook like I’d been holding on
to life for far too long. When my brother called to say your lungs
had filled with water, I was still in bed, wringing truth from sheets.
I knew then that you’d spent your entire life buoying me to
that next horizon, a link in a chain I’d only ever reserved for you.
Tamara Sellman lives in the Pacific Northwest. Her hybrid collection, INTENTION TREMOR, was released by MoonPath Press in January 2021. Her most recent work has appeared in Verse Daily, Cirque, Gargoyle, Conclave, Burning House Press, Hunnybee, Loud Coffee Press, and Winning Writers. Her work has been nominated twice for the Pushcart Prize and has earned other awards. She works as a sleep educator, healthcare writer, and MS advocate/columnist. In her spare time, she's an avid kitchen gardener who camps frequently, often writing new work around the campfire.
poem by Mary Beth Hines
All fall it ripened in gnarled arms, dangled
flush for the pluck and plunder of a hungry
hand, a touch of tongue, but was left behind.
Shriveled fruit by February’s seesaw swing
of freeze to thaw, it bittered through two days
of sleet, clenched and clung encased in ice,
slipped skin, seeped through cracks, dawned
to peer through its newfound hull at huddled
hives, rows of bowed, dowager trees.
The grower and his child roamed the grounds,
balloon heads drifting, fretting over wreckage,
halted when they saw it—all exiled glaze, reflection.
The girl reached up, palms arched for embrace.
He pulled her back to snap a proving photo.
Ghost apple, he murmured and swept it
from the orchard across time zones into cell phones
where it hovers swathed in silver on the limb
of letting go into grasping, sprightly fingers.
Mary Beth Hines’s debut poetry collection, Winter at a Summer House, was published by Kelsay Books in November 2021. Her poetry, short fiction, and nonfiction appear or will soon appear in Crab Orchard Review, Tar River Poetry, Turtle Island Quarterly, Valparaiso Poetry Review, SWWIM, and elsewhere. Learn more at www.marybethhines.com.
poem by Michael Spring
boulder made of sea lions
through the fog, the boulder I want
to climb appears like a conglomeration
of sea lions
because the river is thunderous with snowmelt
I can’t hear my own footsteps
the scramble of river rocks and driftwood
looks like dismembered bones
is slumberous and slippery
I climb carefully to the top
the river rages, booms
what would happen if that boulder
were indeed made up of sea lions
and if they woke – flush with new flesh –
would I slip and fall
would their rolling bodies crush me
and pour me like a river into the river with them
no, I could make the jump
to that tree limb
as the river would rush below my dangling feet –
I could then figure out
what I’d do with the rest of my life –
as I would escape that blubbery surge
from pulling me down with them
Michael Spring is the author of five poetry books and one children's book. His most recent book is dentro do som/ inside the sound – a bilingual book (poems translated into Portuguese by Maria Joao Marques) published by Companhio Das Ilhas, Portugal, 2021. His poetry awards include The Turtle Island Poetry Award, runner-up award for the Paris Book Festival, and an honorable mention for the Eric Hoffer Book Award. Other distinctions include a Luso-American Fellowship from DISQUIET International. His poems have appeared in numerous publications; including: Atlanta Review, Crannog, Flyway, Gavea-Brown, Innisfree, The Midwest Quarterly, and Spillway. He is a poetry editor for The Pedestal Magazine and Flowstone Press.
poem by Robert Beveridge
THE LAST TWO POEMS YOU SENT CAME CLOSE
ping-pong balls bob in the pond,
whistle through tiny holes poked
in them by nails. where they entered
I’ve no idea, but they’ve floated
down to this little hollowed-out
place where once, perhaps, kids
dug for minnows. Now, a trio
of them turn, lazy, in a circle,
dodge the first raindrops
of an April storm.
Robert Beveridge makes noise (xterminal.bandcamp.com) and writes poetry in Akron, OH. Recent/upcoming appearances in FERAL, Noble/Gas, The Pointed Circle, Neologism, Loch Raven, among others.
2 poems by Charles Rossiter
Up on Capitol Hill at the Tune Inn I Hear America Singing
Sitting Bull has returned,
he's at the drive-in movies
eating up the big screen
but everyone ignores him and
goes out for more popcorn.
They're tired of the wobblies and the KKK
they're tired of Black Lives Matter
they say they're tired of Sitting Bull.
Barracuda singles move among
dark booths looking
for fresh meat, Willie Nelson
on the juke box and
across the street congress
is endlessly debating
while citizens grow increasingly
restless and through it all
I hear America singing
Yes, this is America, pardner,
don't you know a free country when you see one?
Come here, son, have yourself a beer
settle down, relax,
this one's on the house
and there's plenty more where that came from,
on the house, plenty more,
on the house.
Mother Jones turns restless in the earth
Malcolm's old wounds still bleeding
Nam's black wall recalls dead names
Have another beer son,
settle down, this is the voice
of America talking to you,
radio free six pack.
Don't be so serious, son.
It takes a heap of living to make a planet home.
When we push those little old borders around
it's just sort of like rearranging the furniture,
and them nu-clear bombs, hell boy
ain't nobody fool enough to set one of them suckers off,
now is there, boy,
I ask you,
now is there?
On the High Road to Taos
There was the shrine church at Chimayo
with the room of abandoned canes
and crutches, the pool of holy dirt
on the floor, pictures of the sick
and dead, little memory objects.
Higher up, the cemetery
with the motorcycle shrine,
the plank floor church,
the little village just to the side
where we stopped to piss
in the schoolhouse rest room.
The kids were outside at recess.
We yelled over to the teacher
who said it was ok to go on in.
At the shop across from
the mission in Las Trampas
we were tempted by a free
half-wolf puppy, but a half-wolf
deserves better than life in a city.
We talked about him
clear across Kansas. His eyes
were an uncanny shade of blue.
Charles Rossiter, NEA Fellowship recipient, hosts the audio website poetrypoetry.com. He has authored numerous books and chapbooks of poetry. He recently edited In The Spirit of T’ao Ch’ien an anthology of American poets who write in the spirit of the ancient Chinese. His work has been featured on NPR and at the Chicago Blues Festival. His latest collection is, Greem Mountain Meditations, (FootHills Publishing, 2019).
Special feature of our contributing editor Jared Smith (3 poems)
I have been the wind
have ascended the stairs
danced as water on a silver stream
I have shaken the house
worn the robes of ancient gods
lived long in the light of evening
and learned to sing from shadows
Ohhh these are gone in the mist of time
When you enter the awareness
you touch all things simultaneously
there are no words for going back
When you enter there is no direction
the stars are in your blood
the miles of space that were separation
When you leave you cannot come back
but what you left comes back into you.
You enter the everywhere.
In the Before Light of Morning
In the before light of morning
when water still condenses from thin air
as do shadows that might be animals
forged from the darkness about them and
everything you have dreamed of is still
waiting to take shape in our world
where people have learned to fly
and communicate with the dead
generations that dreamed of us
and wrote epic poems and journeys
that would be melted down from rock,
words that would be carried on ether
condensing in minds before sun rises.
In the before light of morning
all energy comes from the sun but
energy is only the transfer, the flow,
from ungodly heat to ungodly cold,
from lightness to darkness. Without
darkness the before light is nothing.
An ashen figure dropping icicles to the wind
which exists only in a tomb of the mind.
In the before light of morning
grande dames rise on wings of lavender lace,
owls return to their haunted trees
and herons stand silent in the mist,
one foot firm in the mud and one in feather.
These are caverns you cannot rise from.
Their gray walls are ethereal and ghostly
filled with the shadows of spirits
landscaped in the guttural world of oink.
A Deep Wilderness
I walk along a path that shadow animals have made
from one hunting ground to another across stone,
and I reach down to pluck the only sign of life
that is obvious in this harsh setting…a seed
where nothing has yet set down its roots.
I press it to my lips and bite hard into its skin.
Folded inside this hard shell of a seed is a wilderness
seething to escape, but still shielded from the winds
that will brush and whisper among its leaves
and from those leaves lift a song
that carries an army of tumbled branches,
roots reaching out, grasping earth and holding.
All these lives from one seed, wind-pollinated.
The tree will not grow on barren rock.
The leaves lie dormant without rain.
The seed a time capsule cemented in sunlight.
There is a word for this
but it is beyond the range of what is known.
Is it that a word is a seed as well in a wind
that waits for other seeds before it blooms,
sending out an angry army of conflicting thought,
tumbled branches and roots, singing first in monotone.
What would you lay down in print to make meaning
of scattered leaves becoming maple, pine, aspen, oak
tossed by winds they do not have an understanding of?
It is that time of year the sap is rising
and old men have placed tin buckets along dark trunks
watching and waiting to see what secrets drop in,
boiling it all down and hoping for something darker,
sweeter that will melt in the mouth, on the tongue,
and whatever it is they will give it word, a seed
with meaning that will stretch across generations.
In the beginning that is what it was.
If there is one seed then there will be more
and unknown conversations will take place.
From the forest floor detritus fresh soil will appear
and who knows what invasive species will hold
or what breaks down the stone of meanings.
What brings what life to what dark seeds,
whether fire or frost or rain or drought.
In the beginning this is what it was.
Shadows follow shadows that we believe in
but the world and word are what they are.
Jared Smith's 16th book of poetry, A Sphere Encased in Fires and Life, will be released by New York Quarterly Books in the spring of 2022. Jared is a poetry editor of Turtle Island Quarterly, and has served on the editorial boards of Home Planet News, The New York Quarterly, and The Pedestal Magazine, as well as serving on the boards of directors of arts and literary non-profits in New York, Illinois, and Colorado. His work has appeared in hundreds of journals and anthologies in this country and abroad, including in translation in Mexico, Mainland China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong.