Turtle Island Quarterly 23
featured poet: Michael Spring (4 poems),
poem by Lorrie Ness, 2 poems by Joan Mazza,
poem by Jared Smith, poem by Barbara Parchim,
poem by Paul Willis, poem by J.I. Kleinberg,
poem by Emily Ransdell, poem by Tim Mayo,
poem by Brett Warren,poem by Bill Griffin,
poem by Richard Weaver, and haiku by Xiaoly Li
Featured poet: Michael Spring (4 poems)
the boats broken from their moorings
look like drunk horses trying to find
their way around the docks
but the docks come undone too
as the water rose so subtly
no one seemed alarmed
several miles of rising
water still coming
as boats bang against other boats
and floating cars in the parking lot
and here they come – a pride of sea lions
flipping around in the water
they are thrashing the surface
bumbling over boats, tipping
them over – catching a ride
on the floodwaters
toward the sinking fresh fish market –
they are dunking cars along the way
barking, howling as they bounce –
blubber over metal –
they’ve waited a long time for this
mango at dusk
I believed, briefly, I was simply made
of the ocean’s
red and orange hues at dusk
sticky mango sluiced
my face and hands
as sweet juice found my tongue
the ocean appeared fleshy
I want to spend my life
with its textures and stirring currents
I tear into the mango – it is a poem
I devour (always I’m looking for that poem!)
finding more of this world to love
rowing toward Pianowood Harbor
the harbor master boasts most of it
was built from planks meant for pianos
including the hotel and diner
how many pianos might have existed
from the wood that built this harbor?
the one in the piano bar reverberates
the melodic voices in the room
when I land I might find luck
in this place – I am rowing –
I have heard the cautions
about the acoustics in the dining room –
I am rowing there now
to your table where I will risk falling
in love with every word you speak
under the influence of Jung
tonight the black sky is an ocean
I sit at the bottom looking up
as moonlit clouds become dive boats
what if divers from that surface
dove down to see what I am? I’d slip away
into the things I love in this world
I’d be a single thread of music in a symphony
a wing of moss on a mountain of moss
a rock in a field of rocks
inside the rock there is a secret passageway
(as everything has) as the path evolves
into a dragon in a river of stars –
everything the alchemists sought in alembics
waiting for the ouroboros to emerge from fire
Michael Spring , of southwest Oregon, 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 Robert Graves Award, The Turtle Island Poetry Award, runner-up award for the Paris Book Festival, and an honorable mention for the Eric Hoffer Book Award. In 2016 he won a Luso-American Fellowship from DISQUIET International. He is a poetry editor for The Pedestal Magazine and founding editor of Flowstone Press.
poem by Lorrie Ness
Road to the Farm
We’re feral without them,
two gravel ruts dividing meadow
from domestication. Like the single e
taming the wild
out of domastication. We are all chewing
the mustard seeds,
our fathers bred into cauliflower, kale,
kohlrabi & cabbage.
Naming is the first step in differentiation
and division. Cultivation
is how we convince it to stick.
behind fields of corn, living in rows
on South Amber,
Winding Cross & Willow. Every one of us
assigned a street number.
Independence has become a feeble attempt
Like any two parallels converging
in the distance,
we spread apart & the horizon backs up
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 THRUSH, Palette Poetry and Sky Island Journal. She was a featured poet at Turtle Island Quarterly and she was nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2021by Sky Island Journal. Her chapbook, “Anatomy of a Wound” was published by Flowstone Press in July of 2021.
2 poems by Joan Mazza
Beautiful word, bridge between wet and dry,
dreamy as my night travels beneath quilts.
I slip between worlds, live in either one at will,
step into water without knowing how cold
or deep, or what swims under a black surface,
skin exposed to the inhabitants. From depth
I rise to break that sky mirror splashing,
and gasp for air, my hair wet and streaming
like seaweed, slippery as a fish, a frog, a funky
snapping turtle that eats the catfish trapped
in this small pond I see from my window,
rippling in the breeze, opaque with pollen
blanketing its skin. Between worlds, I am
amphibious, ambidextrous, ambitious,
ambivalent about reading or writing.
None of us arrive with automatic alarms
built into our biology to warn how we
are dangerous when attacked or bitten.
Red and black coloration works for ants
and beetles, stridulation for crickets
and grasshoppers, and some snakes.
Announcements of a bitter taste.
I’d like a button in my pocket for men
who stand too close in shopping queues.
A booming male voice would announce:
Step away from the woman!
Step away from the woman!
Sometimes I want to shake my butt like
a rattlesnake, wear shiny red to match
the poison dart frog. But these would
seem to promise availability for play
not a warning to stay away. Spiked heels,
the same. I’ve yet to take up the manly
practice of open-carry, an AK47 strapped
to my back, tee-shirt saying, Sharpshooter!
Joan Mazza has worked as a medical microbiologist, psychotherapist, seminar leader, and is the author of six self-help psychology books, including Dreaming Your Real Self (Penguin/Putnam). Her work has appeared in Poet Lore, Potomac Review, Prairie Schooner, The MacGuffin, Crab Orchard Review, Slant, and The Nation. She lives in rural central Virginia.
poem by Jared Smith
Only an Infinite Moment in Time
By lunchtime I have set many deals on paper.
I am alive with all the dollars I have moved
and scared by the lies I have gotten away with.
I sweep a hand across my face and put away the cell.
Turn it off. Walk out among the other gray coats,
twisting between the laughter of young girls and
the sweaty bravado of hard hot men on the prowl.
The sun is blazing upon the concrete sidewalks
and the lights confused between red and green.
In New York you never stop walking at the end
of one block or street crossing, you just turn
corners and keep putting one foot before the other.
I’ve never been inside St. Peter’s before but today
the door is closed but unlatched as I guess it always is.
I am ashamed that I have never been here in the quiet.
A ghost sits in the third pew from the front
listening to candles flickering in glass tubes on the wall.
Perhaps those flames are prayers or the ghost a shadow.
I have not been here long enough to know and never will.
The ceiling is the ceiling, as high as believers can build,
and the holy icons of gold are stars in its firmament.
I am at peace, and somehow god in a box is peaceful.
I wonder at how a god that sees and is all things is
best seen within a box, a frame that closes upon itself,
while here I am but the son of man and I am the Eucharist.
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 our contributing 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.
poem by Barbra Parchim
after picking apples for 6 to 8 weeks
my ladder and I are close partners
rungs and rails smoothed from use
uncounted trips up and down
it’s my last day of the season
and the grower
drives the forklift over to a secluded corner -
grass unkempt, trees scattered and very old
I lay the ladder in the grass
and climb the tree in front of me
broad horizontal limbs
fruit large and streaked – a Winesap
he relaxes in his seat,
the pressure of harvest behind him,
hands hanging slack as he talks
about the century old trees here
varieties that no-one wants anymore -
fallen out of favor -
not commercially viable
like the Red delicious, Jonathans or Romes
I am clambering in the tree, listening
as he speaks, the eyes,
bluer than Indian summer sky, soften,
the features relax
more talking than he’s done all season -
imagining before his time
and before his father’s time
when this tree was young
and it’s then that I see it -
this is love -
unreasonable, illogical and unprofitable -
the best kind
this matriarch will stand with all the others
until she can’t -
age will take her,
not the saw
Barbara Parchim lives on a small farm in southwest Oregon. She enjoys gardening and wilderness hiking and volunteered for several years at a wildlife rehabilitation facility caring for raptors and wolves. Her poems have appeared (or are forthcoming) in Ariel Chart, Jefferson Journal, Isacoustic, Cirque, Windfall, Allegro Poetry, Trouvaille Review, Front Porch Review, Third Wednesday magazine and others. Her first book of poetry was published by Flowstone Press in October, 2021.
poem by Paul Willis
Vineyard below Castel Rubello
Now, in November, the vineyard has long
been harvested of its many grapes. The vines
relax themselves in the sun and drop lazy leaves,
gold and crimson, onto the long green paths.
Row on row bends down the slope in careless
flame until lost in shadow below the castle on the hill,
a place contested by Dante's Guelphs and Ghibellines,
then later damaged—two of the towers—in the
Second World War. Orange and ochre butterflies
traverse the air around my knees, and a pale gentian
blooms alone beside my boots. If you asked them
about blood betrayals and flying shells of artillery,
they wouldn't know. They absolutely wouldn't know.
Paul Willis has published seven collections, the most recent of which is Somewhere to Follow (Slant Books, 2021). Individual poems have appeared in Poetry, Ascent, Turtle Island Quarterly, Writer's Almanac, and the Best American Poetry series. He is a professor of English at Westmont College in Santa Barbara, California.
poem by J.I. Kleinberg
If nothing holds, then begin anew
How kind time is, altering space
so nothing stays wrong; and light,
more new light, always arrives.
Spencer Reece, “At Thomas Merton’s Grave”
Does the sun see its futility, to raise and raze,
day in, day out, in a longitude of desire?
Tides and breath repeat the one, one, one
of the heart. In thrall, the moon, its hope, regret,
wax and wane, the way we hunger for light
and turn from knowledge. The crow, a grace,
swoops from the roof, its body a shadow
borrowed from love, its feathery darkness
a lesson in leaving: flight leaves no trace.
How kind time is, altering space
in eccentric scrawl. Bedraggled chroniclers,
pockets torn away, messages scattered,
carried by wind, darkness, crows, we reckon
that lost is fate, absence the reverse of memory,
that silence can be owned, terrible inheritance.
The crow laughs at our abstracted fright,
as if the sun could forget its job, lapse
into musings, hand over its duties
to goldfinch and raven, recalibrate right
so nothing stays wrong; and light,
that rascal, crawls under the curtain, crosses
the room and escapes through the window.
Custodian crow, neither savage nor dark,
arrows toward art in a flurry of scraps,
even as gravity settles the strewn.
Re-pair these shredded tangents of lives,
such pure desire, to story the unremembered,
image the unseen, to nab from the roil one mote,
to say this, this one, yes begin, as sure as the sun,
more new light, always arrives
Three-time nominee for Pushcart and Best of the Net awards, J.I. Kleinberg is an artist, poet, and freelance writer. Her poetry has appeared in December, One, Diagram, Otoliths, Pedestal, Psaltery & Lyre, and many other print and online journals. She lives in Bellingham, Washington, USA, and at chocolateisaverb.wordpress.com.
poem by Emily Ransdell
All day the cedars
have been dropping needles,
and brittle on the deck.
So dry you can hear them
even inside the house.
They sound like rain,
not the dark, familiar drizzle
but the drenching kind we need.
spruce and shore pine
tinged the color of flame.
Dorianne says if trees
could speak they wouldn’t.
What’s there to say anyway —
days so hot,
talk is just more tinder
The Bootleg fire
was the size of L.A., then
Rhode Island, twice the size of Manhattan
where the Statue of Liberty stands
gowned in smoke.
All the way
to Nova Scotia, people are posting
photos of blood-red sunsets
and West Coast wildfire haze.
Here in Manzanita,
the air is clear. The scent of disaster
drifted elsewhere this time.
Behind the house,
bracken ferns curl beneath the laurel as if
seeking shelter. Even the squirrels
have gone quiet, even the crows
and the jays.
Emily Ransdell lives in Camas, Washington and Manzanita, Oregon. Her work has appeared in Poetry Northwest, Poet Lore, Tar River Poetry, Terrain, River Styx, Ruminate and elsewhere. She has been a finalist for the Rattle Poetry Prize and the New Millennium Writings Award, and was the 2019 runner-up for the Prime Number Poetry Prize from Press 53, as well as the New Letters Poetry Prize. Emily has twice appeared in American Life In Poetry. She teaches at the Hoffman Center for the Arts in Manzanita Oregon
poem by Tim Mayo
Today it’s snowing. You hate it
for reminding you of the page,
that ultimate white-out.
Later, much later, the sun
will come out, the snow will blind you,
and your head will ache as the white hurt
your eyes feel leaves you groping
in the dazzle of impossibility.
When you were young,
impervious to the cold, the night
below zero, you’d go to the dim
to split wood. Now, you wonder
why you did it, why you let the frost
enter your hands, though the baby fat
of your zeal stopped its spread.
Funny how you can forget the odd
things you did when you were young
with nothing really to do.
Can’t sleep? Split wood. Why not?
You used to like the snow,
the challenge it seemed to pose
like the deer in the backyard waiting to see
what kind of animal you really are.
A seven-time Pushcart nominee, Tim Mayo’s poems and reviews have appeared The American Journal of Poetry, Barrow Street, Narrative Magazine, ONE (Jacar Press), Poetry International, Salamandar, Valparaiso Poetry Review, Verse Daily, and The Writer’s Almanac among other places. His first full length collection, The Kingdom of Possibilities, (Mayapple Press, 2009) was a finalist for the 2009 May Swenson Award. His second volume of poems, Thesaurus of Separation (Phoenicia Publishing 2016) was a finalist for the 2017 Montaigne Medal among other awards. His newest collection, Notes to the Mental Hospital Timekeeper (Kelsay Books, 2019)), received an honorable mention in the 2020 Eric Hoffer Book Awards chapbook category. He is a founding member of the Brattleboro Literary Festival.
poem by Brett Warren
Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more.
I have little to offer the forest today
except not burning not marking
not cutting or killing or harming
but I know enough to be grateful
for the familiar brutality
of icy wind off the lake
for the trees that protect me from it
even dead they offer handholds
for the climb up a weathered railing
for the way down
the trees are not here for me
but I thank them anyway
and if gratitude begins with attention
all I have to do is notice
the fiery carpet of sunlit needles
on a spiral stairway of trail
all I have to do is listen
to the percussion of my boots
on roots to know
I walk on hollowed ground
the genius work
of denning snake mothers
whose blunt faces
push everything aside
Brett Warren (she/her) is an editor whose poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in various publications, including Canary, The Comstock Review, Cape Cod Poetry Review, Eunoia Review, Green Fuse, Halfway Down the Stairs, Provincetown Magazine, Right Hand Pointing, Rise Up Review, Unbroken Journal, One Sentence Poems, and Shot Glass Journal. She lives on a peninsula in the Outer Lands archipelagic region of the Atlantic Ocean. Her house is surrounded by pitch pine and black oak trees—nighttime roosts of wild turkeys, who sometimes use the roof of her writing attic as a runway.
poem by Bill Griffin
The peach clings to its stone;
flesh needs a center that will hold.
How long have we been holding on?
Life writes its first draft
all fire and longing
but near the end just wants
to remember one last touch.
Juice lost down the sink, soft damn peach,
but when you lay down the knife
my fingers taste sweet
Bill Griffin is a naturalist and retired family doctor who lives in rural North Carolina. His poetry has appeared in NC Literary Review, Tar River Poetry, Southern Poetry Review and elsewhere. His ecopoetry collection, Snake Den Ridge, a Bestiary (March Street Press 2008), is set in the Great Smoky Mountains. Bill features Southern poets, nature photography, and microessays at his blog: http://Griffin.Poetry.com.
poem by Richard Weaver
swirl in unimaginable formations.
Hitchcock. Wizard of Oz. An endless confession
of wings. An anchor of memory compressed.
We watch them whirl, amazed their flight
doesn’t dissolve the diamond blue sky.
Richard Weaver hopes to return as the writer-in-residence at the James Joyce Pub; Among his other pubs: Little Patuxent Review, Steel Toe Review, Southern Quarterly, Xavier Review, Loch Raven Review, Pembroke, & New Orleans Review. He’s the author of The Stars Undone (Duende Press, 1992), and provided the libretto for a symphony, Of Sea and Stars (2005). Recently, his 165th prose poem was published. He was a finalist in the 2019 Dogwood Literary Prize in Poetry.
haiku by Xiaoly Li
Horn Pond Haikus
A Doberman Puppy
cropped, banded ears stand
erect, iconic, three-month-
old is pulled to walk
A Black Mutt
jumps to greet our dog
as fast, spunky, as any,
with only three legs
A Birch Polypore
on a fallen log
a Razor Strop Fungus carved
with a smiley face
A Silver Haired-Woman with a Cane Points to the Crisply Patterned Birds
They are Mergansers.
They will leave in early March
for colder water
You Need to Look Hard
wooden signs hanging
on bushes, heart-shaped, one says
You are important
Xiaoly Li is a poet and photographer who lives in Massachusetts. She is a 2022 recipient of the Massachusetts Cultural Council Artist Fellowship Grant in Poetry. Prior to writing poetry, she published stories in a selection of Chinese newspapers. Her photography, which has been shown and sold in galleries in Boston, often accompanies her poems. Her poetry has recently appeared in Spillway, American Journal of Poetry, PANK, Atlanta Review, Chautauqua, Rhino, Cold Mountain Review, J Journal and elsewhere; and in several anthologies. She has been nominated for Best of the Net twice, Best New Poets, and a Pushcart Prize. Xiaoly received her Ph.D. in electrical engineering from Worcester Polytechnic Institute and her Masters in computer science and engineering from Tsinghua University in China.