TURTLE ISLAND QUARTERLY 20

Winter/Spring 2021

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Poems by Lorrie Ness ( featured poet), Peter Grandbois, Karen McPherson, Michael Spring, Darryl Lorenzo Wellington,  Sara Backer, Paul Willis,

P. L. Watts, Michael Estabrook, Robert Knox, Claire Keyes, Roger Camp, Suzanne S. Rancourt, Wayne Allen Jones, Jared Smith,

and an essay by Chila Woychik

 

FEATURED POET:  Lorrie Ness (3 poems}
 

Slime Mold

Sufferer of indignities.

Named after the most embarrassing

part of your life cycle.

If I had been you, I’d be known as

puberty pimples, bra stuffer

or feathered hair. But this is a torture

we reserve for fungus…

Oh wait, they threw you out of that kingdom.

I forgot you’d been downgraded

to another dreaded lot: the protists.

Home to amoeba and parasites

known for eating people’s brains.

You’re guilty by association.

Bumped from your throne like Pluto.

You can’t help the way you ooze,

a strange yolk streaming over logs.

eating fallen leaves. We never say

thanks for the cleanup.

Sometimes you make kids scream.

Eew! Parents call you a bottom feeder—

which is an insult. We use another name

when your kind get together,

Pseudoplasmodium. Like pseudoscience,

we question your validity.

 

 

 

How to Remain

 

Owl pellets are oracles

containing teeth and bones.

Cut one open and you’ll see.

It isn’t complicated for birds,

knowing which parts to digest

and which parts to leave behind.

                      

Death has always prevented death.

                      

Incan parents offered a daughter

who drank chicha and marched

toward her sacrifice. She sat

knees to chest with braids

long enough ladder her

people to the heavens.

 

 

 

My Comic Book Self Would Be

 

Long-torsoed like a flapper, with black hair

spiraling to my waist. Underneath my white maxi-dress

I’d be flat-chested and Barbie-thighed. A corset

and bubble boobs got nothing

 

on my cotton swag. My gardening apron

would be sagging with trowels and spades — steel bling

blinding you when I whirl and pose with a hand on my jutted hip.

I’d rock an ankle bracelet and heels

 

calloused from stomping through mud and brush.

My power would be communicating with owls. With a wink,

Wisteria would fly to my shoulder,

lend me her vision at night.

 

Because little girls need STEM role models,

my day job would be an ornithologist — but I’d be relegated

to cameos in mainstream comics because binoculars

and straw hats don’t drive sales.

 

By popular outcry, I’d land a spinoff

when a cult following of science kids organizes a boycott of Marvel.

I’d give away shirts that say KnOWLedge Is Power!

and pencil toppers with great-horned ears.

 

Two pages of glossy pin-up art

would show my mushroom garden glowing at night.

Young readers would learn about detritus, nitrifying fungi

and armillaria mellea.

 

We’d slay polluters with community outreach, rain owl pellets on fields

to demonstrate natural fertilization. And farmers markets

across the land would burst, at last,

with organic tomatoes.

 

 

Lorrie Ness is an emerging poet working in Virginia. Her work can be found at Palette Poetry, THRUSH Poetry Journal, Inflectionist Review, The American Journal of Poetry,  and various other journals. In 2019 and again in 2020 she was nominated for a Best of the Net Award by Sky Island Journal.

 


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poem by Peter Grandbois

 

 

 

Sometimes it’s okay to eat the sun

 

 

Listen               when I say        you      no longer         need                 dissolve           

 

into morning               into a world                 of stinging things         and

 

quiet storms                 need     no longer         slip       behind the half-hearted

 

sun and wait                for the ghosts               of day              to color            the grass

 

 

and                  when I tell you we have forgotten        how     to say   no                   

 

to the slow       tearing of light             pay attention                the squirrel       shuddering

 

in the shadows             beneath the Rose         of Sharon         has already begun         to die

 

 

 

 

Peter Grandbois is the author of twelve books, the most recent of which is Everything Has Become Birds (Brighthorse 2020). His poems, stories, and essays have appeared in over one hundred journals. His plays have been nominated for several New York Innovative Theatre Awards and have been performed in St. Louis, Columbus, Los Angeles, and New York. He is poetry editor at Boulevard magazine and teaches at Denison University in Ohio. You can find him at www.petergrandbois.com.

 

 

 

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poem by Karen McPherson

 

 

 

Fault Lines

 

If there’s a deep, unstable seam

running the length of this broad valley,

I’m unmoved. If warning waves are

there, I’m not aware. The only

compression I can feel is a slight

ticking in the chest. Natural

with age.

 

Together we pretend this plate

of hardened soil with its tight weave

of trees and grasses, hugged by l

ow hills, zipped into its grid

of highways and bridges,

is firm. Eternal.

 

Insects etch their signatures, a pulse

beyond the temperature of human

skin. It’s over generations we leave

prints. And map this land into our

history.

 

Why sit on the beach imagining

the sneaker wave? Why drive

the coast road rehearsing for

the landslide? Must there be

a shadowy intruder glimpsed

beyond the mirrored

dark?

 

Boy who cried wolf was my childhood

nightmare. That it could be

your own fault.

 

 

 

Karen McPherson is an Oregon poet and literary translator.She has published one full-length collection, Skein of Light (2014) and the chapbook Sketching Elise (2012). Her poems and translations have appeared inliterary journals including Descant,Beloit Poetry Journal, Cirque, Cider Press Review, Cincinnati Review, Zoland,Potomac Review, The Midwest Quarterly, and Chicago QuarterlyReview. Several of her poems with accompanying translations into French byLouise Dupré appeared in Mïtra: Revue d’art et de littérature. Her poemshave received several nominations for Pushcart prizes and Best of the Net. Sheis also the author of a book-length translation of poetic essays by Québec poetLouise Warren. Between2013 and 2017, she worked as an editor in the Airlie Press poetry collective. 

 

 

 

 

 

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poem by Michael Spring

 

 

 

 

from the saxophonist’s window

 

the saxophonist wends the sound

of a low growl

into a moan

 

bends my mind

away ftom the incessant sounds

of cars rushing by on wet streets

 

I pause, lean against the stone

wall under the window

 

is there anywhere more important

I need to be

 

why not become bodiless

give myself over to at least one song

 

why not become music

 

I float to the glass of an open window

that reflects the ocean

 

why not become an ocean

 

where somewhere inside

a new island hisses and steams

still malleable with its magma

 

why not become an island

 

 

 

Michael Spring, of Southwest Oregon, is the author of four poetry books and one children's book. In 2016 he won a Luso-American Fellowship from DISQUIET Interernational. His poetry books have won several awards, including The Turtle Island Poetry Award, and an honorable mention for the Eric Hoffer Book Award. He is a poetry editor for The Pedestal Magazine and Flowstone Press.  His most recent chapbook Drift Line appeared in 2020 by FootHills Publishing.

 

 

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poem by Darryl Lorenzo Wellington 

 

 

 

Nature Proem

 

Looking at the vacuum cleaner,

I don’t think about an operational

God: heavens no. But I may think about energy

the bizarre temporality of the objects

containing it. There is a street sweeper

outside distressing the neighborhood

with its chewing gnawing noisiness

and staring into its tumultuous

crescendo would probably be more like the abyss.

The vast tanklike supra-robot threatens

to put an end to this small and green

   planetary life   

              an end to the pathetically shriveled

        skin and bone crushed beneath terrible metallurgy.

Death to the human race. Death to the human race!

Our dishonorable enterprise sucked up like slop.

The vacuum cleaner merely mocks my unplugged lethargy.

 

 

Darryl Lorenzo Wellington has spent over 20 years as a journalist, syndicated columnist, playwright, poet, surrealist, and performance artist, living in Santa Fe, NM.  His essays on poverty, economic justice, race relations, African American history, civil rights history, and post-Katrina New Orleans have appeared in The Nation, The Guardian, The Progressive, Christian Science Monitor, The Atlantic, Dissent, Crisis (NAACP’s magazine), and many more. His poetry chapbook Life’s Prisoners  received the Turtle Island Quarterly chapbook award,  and was published by Flowstone Press in 2017. He has appeared as a guest on the Tavis Smiley radio show and is currently a writing fellow at the Center for Community Change in Washington, D.C.

 

 

 

 

 

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poem by Sara Backer

 

 

 On Edge

 

 

I saw her only because the cats stopped eating and stared

outside. No sound, only a dark round shape between

oak trees, and big—too thick to be a moose—a bear!

Her bulk and rhythm as she walked her stellar blackness

through our yard without a snap or rustle. Just a screen

between her and the cats’ dilated tails. We watched until

we couldn’t see her, and several moments longer.

 

Days later, the bear still walks with me. What if

I meet her with no house wrapped around me?

On trails, I see her shape in boulders, in shadows.

She walks from my cerebrum into my limbic system

with her scent, her claws, her teeth, and I fear

I will never see her again. 

 

 

 

Sara Backer’s first book of poetry, Such Luck (Flowstone Press 2019) follows two chapbooks: Scavenger Hunt (dancing girl press, 2018) and Bicycle Lotus (Left Fork) which won the Turtle Island Quarterly Chapbook Award in 2015. Twice nominated for Best of the Net in 2020 and a prize winner in the 2019 Plough Poetry competition, this former world wanderer turned woods wanderer now lives in New Hampshire amid white pines, red oaks, and black bears.

 

 

 

 

 

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poem by Paul Willis

 

 

Baker Creek

 

Maybe we can build a trail down to the creek,

my brother says.  So we part a curtain of ripe

cherries behind the lawn, slip beneath a bigleaf maple,

and follow a fence through sword fern to a drop-off.

 

I point a way past massive trunks of Douglas fir,

but he favors a gulley of blackberry vines,

head-high.  So in we go, submerged in a sea

of light-green thorns until we are swimming

a deer path across a narrow, grassy shelf.

 

We follow it past a grand fir to a root-webbed

landing by a pool, dark and deep and calm as a doe.

Whether a real trail can follow, we don’t know,

but here we are, streamside, a brace of brothers

at the bottom, our boots by the water we have only

seen from above.  And that’s getting somewhere.

 

 

Paul Willis has published six collections, among the most recent of which are Getting To Gardisky Lake and Deer at Twilight: Poems from the North Cascades, both from Stephen F. Austin State University Press.  Individual poems have appeared in Poetry, Turtle Island Quarterly, Writer's Almanac, and Best American Poetry.

 

 

 

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poem by P. L. Watts

 

 

 

 

The Young Gator of Everglades Swamp

for Mary Oliver

 

the Heron comes here every afternoon and pretends not to see him.

she preens a long time under the Cypress trees.

 

he creeps for thirty minutes through the overcrowded swamp,

creeps for the preening meal he has in his sights.

 

sinks, and rises closer with a weed around his eye.

tries not to blink.

 

she waits to fly off just as the young gator draws near,

as though this were her own morning,

as though this were her own newly carved trail.

 

 

 

P. L. Watts survived the Florida foster care system and worked her way through college and graduate school. She earned an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts and a Lambda Literary Emerging LGBTQ Fellowship. She currently lives in the San Francisco Bay Area where she scribbles subversive verses by day but helps the rich get richer by night. Her writing has appeared or is forthcoming in J Journal, Saccharine, and The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature.

 

 

 

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poem by Michael Estabrook

 

 

 

Galapagos Tortoise

 

Out the back window I see, resting there

next to the mulch bin, topped

with light green watermelon rinds

and pale yellow corn husks

and shrunken orange pumpkins, a giant

Galapagos Tortoise, not moving or eating,

but simply resting, steady and sure

as the harvest moon, its two front legs

stretching out straight before it,

wizened, hoary head peeking at up me

from beneath its dark carapace.

 

But I know it cannot be a Galapagos Tortoise

because this is winter in New England,

a light layer of snow beginning to cover

everything, the yard and trees

and the mulch bin, too.

 

I rub my eyes, look out again see it’s only

the large rock at the end of the path

resting there sure and steady as Mars

shining fiery red in the winter sky,

and not a Galapagos Tortoise after all, watching

me steadily as a Roman centurion from there

alongside the mulch bin in the snow.

 

 

Michael Estabrook has been publishing his poetry in the small press since the 1980s. He has published over 20 collections, a recent one being The Poet’s Curse, A Miscellany (The Poetry Box, 2019).

 

 

 

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poem by Robert Knox

 

 

 

 

ClematisLooking Down at Us

 

Like fallen stars

but oversized

great violet wheels descending on tame,unwary

    villages below

those little folk of summer

 

Wagging fat limbs, like octopi

bred on a diet of purple sun

Creatures from a universe of stronger light

     and the appetite of clouds

 

their slow motion tumble

the stopwatch of spring

 

 

 

Robert Knox is a poet, fiction writer, and Boston Globe correspondent. As a contributing editor for the online poetry journal Verse-Virtual, his poems appear regularly on that site. They have also appeared in journals such as The American Journal of Poetry, New Verse News, Unlikely Stories, and others. His poetry chapbook "Gardeners Do It With Their Hands Dirty"was nominated for a Massachusetts Best Book award, and hHe was named the winner of the 2019 Anita McAndrews Poetry Award. A book of linked short stories, titled "House Stories," has been accepted for publication by Adelaide Press.

 

 

 

 

 

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poem by Claire Keyes

 

 

Birding at the Brownsville Dump

                                         -after a line by Dorianne Laux

 

I loved him most

when he took me to exotic places

like the Brownsville Dump, a flight

across country, a rental car, binoculars

waved at the attendant who allowed us in,

his bemused grin. Something about the lustiness

of birding turned me on, the quest for the elusive,

highly prized Mexican crow, corvus imparatus.

On the news, we heard the Mexicans

are bringing drugs, crime. They’re rapists.

To stop them, we’ll build a wall.

 

Put a wall between Matamoros, Mexico

and Brownsville, Texas and the small, nondescript

Mexican crow will still find its way to this dump.

He wanted it and wanted me to read the guidebook

to make sure, to indulge him. I loved that he needed me

to indulge his passion even as vultures soared to case the scene:

bag upon split bag, green, white, brown. So we sat and searched

for a stifling hour watching trucks deposit fresh loads

and backhoes shape the mounds into pyramids. Nothing

but the squeal of gulls who dived low over the heaps,

exultant with craved bits of fries, gristle, burger wraps.

But where was corvus imparatus?

 

There, I said, guiding him to see it fluttering its wings

as it foraged, its feathers glossy, yes glossy. This dull bird

swelled his list and I loved his deft promise that next

the magnificent whooping cranes, the Gulf.

 

 

Claire Keyes is the author of The Question of Rapture (Mayapple Press) and the chapbook, Rising and Falling. A second book, What Diamonds Can Do, came out in 2015. Her poems and reviews have appeared in Whale Road Review, Hamilton Stone Review, Persimmon Tree, Comstock Review and on NPR’s The Writer’s Almanac. She is Professor emerita at Salem State University and lives in Marblehead, Massachusetts.

 

 

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poem by Roger Camp

 

Itself is like a snake

The Cape itself is like a snake at its serpentine end.

Beyond a place the charts call Long Point is an echo

of the Cape, a final coil within a coil.

Walking in Beech Forest, I saw two snakes

their chocolate colored bellies and tri-lateral yellow

stripes entwined, age and youth combined.

The older, thicker one sensing me, held still

while his younger, unworldly companion slid

its slimmer body along side, contour unfolding contour.

In my effort to follow this unwinding, I lost focus,

lost the snakes, unable to define a coil within a coil,

unable to tell beginning from end,

lost my way as well, wending tail to tail,

sinuous trail to trail, by forest inhaled.

 

 

Roger Camp lives in Seal Beach, CA where he gardens, walks the pier, plays blues piano and spends afternoons with his pal, Harry, over drinks at Nick’s on 2nd. When he’s not at home, he’s traveling in the Old World. His work has appeared in Midwest Quarterly, Gulf Coast, Southern Poetry Review, and Nimrod.

 

 

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poem by Suzanne S. Rancourt

 

 

 

“…giant waves that don’t travel far enough away from the storm origins will remain contorted by chaotic conditions…”

 

 

In the Regions of High Metamorphism

 

Lava begets lava

Helios thrums inside each amygdaloidal intrusion

Penetration

Where once a thing, creature, human, 

Lived - there was living

Empty holes of scoria

Vesicle

Skull

 

There is no tidal effect

They say

Here in this bay on this full moon

Methana, Agios Georgios, only a laminar rolling of waves

Green from volcanic sulfur infuse

The Mediterranean blue with gaseous currents

A brushstroke of influence piped through

Clank, bust out – like steam in ancient radiators
My heart

A fire fountain

 

 

 

 

Suzanne S. Rancourt, Abenaki/Hurondescent, has authored two books: Billboard in the Clouds, CurbstonePress / NU Press 2nd print, received the Native Writers’ Circle ofthe Americas First Book Award. murmurs at the gate, Unsolicited Press,released May 2019. Ms. Rancourt is a multi-modal EXAT and CASAC with an MS in psychology,an MFA in writing, and CAGS. A USMC and Army Veteran, her newest book Old Stones, New Roads

is forthcoming in 2021, by Main Street Rag Book Publishers.

 

 

 

 

 

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poem by  Wayne Allen Jones

 

 

 

 

When I’d been alone too long

I’d had it with being alone
and decided to have my way
with the Universe and be had
by everything in it. I started in Vegas.
I had and was had by everything
that walked crawled swam flew
or slithered – great blues elephants
all sexes and sexless down to
amoebas – viruses indoors, outdoors
from the Marianas Trench to Everest.
Breathing and atmosphere left in the dust,
I ranged from atomic helium in picometers
to Galaxy IC 1101 at a megaparsec wide,
getting it on quantum strings to 100 trillion stars
a billion light-years away in a heartbeat
(physics be damned – the power’s all
in the mind – hahaha!). Worn to a picofrazzle,
I took a beat and a diaphragmatic breath,
grabbed the Sahara Desert in one hand,
the Chihuahuan white sands in the other,
and smashed them in one thunderous clap
into a megaton diamond lens that I used
to melt the rest of the Earth’s sand
into a single sheet of glass, on which I etched
the Kama Sutras of all terrestrial life forms,
with an appendix inviting, nay, challenging,
all other extra-terrestrials to add their chapters
and information for parsing their symbols,
vocabulary, syntax, grammar, and phonics.
I also invited plants and other animals of Earth
to chime in, offering them media for sonic and visual
recordings of all the chirping, howling, squawking,
rumbling, and dancing needed to be definitive.
In retrospect, I chuckle at how little effort it took
to imagine how worn down, reduced to a hypodermic,
I could feel without doing anything in fact, and yet,
with what little effort any limit could be transcended
with no cost but time, effortlessly standing in line
with Gandhi at a burger place, saying, in chorus,
“Make me one with everything.”

                                                                                   

 

Wayne Allen Jones retired from clinical psychotherapy, various roles in the computer industry, and teaching literature and writing at the universities of Illinois (Chicago) and of Miami. He still writes and publishes fractalEDGEpress. He won two Hopwood awards at the Univ of Michigan, and is president of the Poets Club of Chicago (in its 84th year). His books of poetry are Stone Works, Decades of Rehearsal, and The A Poems (with Bernard McCabe).

 

 

 

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poem by Jared Smith

A Boy on a Long Dirt Road

 

It is the time

darkness rises from the earth,

wades through the leaves of fescue grass,

dapples the dandelions growing wild

and filters through magenta tulips,

climbs stealthily the deep furrows

lining the trunks of cottonwoods,

wrapping their towering crowns

that pull back into the wind of summer.

 

A boy walks along a dirt road that rises up

as dusty clouds rise about his feet at each step,

and it too is dark and growing deeper.

There is probably a well-lit house

just beyond the next hill, the next turn,

but light no longer reaches here.

The boy may stumble over a small rock

or catch his toe upon a broken root,

but he keeps on.  There is no turning back.

 

And this is when the darkness finds voice

as rosy finches return to their nests

and deer move along their hidden paths

and an owl somewhere begins its search;

This is where he pauses at last to listen

aware of how the night sees him,

of the eyes that glisten from above.

 

And it is now he fills his lungs

with the air and light of evening

and his steps resume and the hill

that rose before him is crested,

and the moon comes out and

there is no well-lit house, no home

waiting beyond the bend beyond

what he will build somehow.

Jared Smith is the author of 14 volumes of poetry, and his work has appeared in hundreds of journals and anthologies in this country, Canada, Mexico, the U.K., and China. He has served on the Editorial Boards of Home Planet News; The New York Quarterly; The Pedestal Magazine; and Turtle Island Quarterly, as well as on the Boards of literary and arts non-profits in New York, Illinois, and Colorado. He is listed in The Colorado Encyclopedia; Poets & Writers; Colorado Poets Center; Who’s Who in America; and other reference sources. Jared's latest book is THAT'S HOW IT IS, 2019.

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essay by Chila Woychik

 

 

 

Twenty Rural

 

“It can draw a person right down to the skin of the world.”

Ellen Meloy, The Anthropology of Turquoise

 

1. When smoke rises over these hills, across a splash of ranging cattle and corn rows miles long; when cities disintegrate under the weight of bombs and terrorism and waste; when the coasts heave and the South boils off in a hazy steam, we’ll still rise at 5 AM, gas the tractors, drag the implements, harvest the fields, grind the corn, call it good.

 

2. The Doomsday Vault and so many seeds. Melting polar ice invades a tunnel. We could talk peripherals: how the weedless fields come with a price, chemicals that kill the biome beneath the stalks. Farmers who wear masks so they won’t inhale what they’re spraying. The dwindling bee population in the Midwest—60% in the past few years—and how it’s too often blamed on parasites when research shows that herbicides, pesticides, and fungicides are to blame. A 97% drop in the total Monarch population in the past 15 years. But what good are facts in the presence of rousing sales numbers?

 

3. We raise soybeans and stout provincialism. Empty roads string along forever. Too long here and we forget how to drive, how to run our hands across the sweaty brow of a city. The pulse slows to a cow’s pace, and here I squander my moments in a row of corn listening for the pop it makes when it grows.

 

4. Nothing marks the passage of time like a cellphone chiming every hour between 9 AM and 9 PM to prompt a medical ritual. My farmer discovered this recently and, when within earshot, so did I. “It was just 6 o’clock a minute ago, and now it’s 7?”

 

5. The farmer grows weaker. Something about genetics. I knew it years ago, could tell by his tells. Roses grow gnarly when the roots are bad. So let him talk about the color of his “paint”: International Red, John Deere green, New Holland blue. All this land for growing things, and somebody’s gotta do it.

 

6. In the Midwest, corn is king and children grow like weeds. In the Midwest, “Garrison Keillor” and “Jesus” are used interchangeably. In the Midwest, clichés are a dime a dozen and every new thing stalls.

 

7. We know modernity hereabouts. I think even Jesus would have a Facebook account and check his iphone for updates in Iowa—the problem would come with the lack of a pocket on his robe. Postmodernity is what smacks us upside the head. We have family to stare into the face of each day. And these rolling acres on and on and on.

 

8. Life keeps soiling its skirt with death. If it’s not neighborly neighbors, it’s the animals scurrying out of reach of large and fast machines. Roadkill checkerboards these back country lanes; we guess species by the color and size from twenty yards away. Nothing should die without breath being spoken over it, so we sigh a sadness while passing by.

 

9. My farmer lets me have my space. Our questions are few but to hash out daily bread and butter cost. He’s a mental man, preferring the life of the mind to body work, and I carry buckets of water and grain exquisitely.

 

10. Each birthday it’s something more. Today I wonder what the ancients did about bad hips. The Egyptians or Chaldeans. The Israelites. A single touch from a good angel? One Greek physician in the first century recommended ivy to ease symptoms of arthritis in the hips, hips too often spread to mount a horse, to mount a man.

 

11.  I would tell you what to do if you’d believe me. I would tell you how it feels to gouge the land underfoot, but you’d laugh. If only you knew how aching it is to gulp soft air and eat orange sky. Like a felled tree trunk stuck in an eye socket, poignant. Like a cow mooing her way to Timbuktu or a calf hobbling along the stark rim of heaven, if you can imagine.

 

12. Cattle call across adjoining fields. Above these ever-living greens grows a boisterous sky. But no, my farmer said, says, is saying, the fields are dying due to haphazard chemical use. A soil devoid of insects is not a healthy soil: earthworms aerate and fertilize. No reason to be subtle about it.

 

13. Sporadically, sheep bleat a mile away and their cries carry through the woods while spring peepers click-click-click in the valley below, a noisy yet not unpleasant sound. Here we learn so many things, such as how to keep darkness at bay by looking into the light. Here’s how: we rip open shades and flip switches, a fly drawn to a lit bulb at night. But please stop smiling, they say, you’re minimizing our pain. We can’t stop, we reply, because all this squinting draws up the corners of our mouth, like so.

 

14. Rural family dynamics can challenge us, leave us wondering if we should stay. Before uncontested divorce and marital counseling, what did they do? Put up with it? As long as Mama stood in the kitchen and Daddy brought home the bacon, all was well. It came down to duty, God, and country, and those broken fences, clothes on the line. Billy, fix the mower; slop the hogs, son, slop the hogs.

 

15. My gentleman farmer worked in Connecticut three months this year, told of relentless traffic, drove like a banshee when he returned. You’re not in Connecticut anymore, I told him. I know, he said, but Connecticut is still in me. But it’s finally out now; he’s a farmer again, not a high-falutin’ engineer type with gravy on his tie. Welcome home, I said, and those outlets still need put in the shop.

 

16. Farm jive proliferates and fake news isn’t confined to politics. For instance, several online articles claim that all cattle (presumably everywhere) will be pointing in the same northerly direction at any given time based on the earth’s magnetic field. But what I can tell you is that most cattle will often be lying down when the barometer is at a certain place and a front is moving in, and most cattle will often be standing up when the barometer is somewhere else and the weather is fine. I’ve not yet seen a farm field in my vast travels around the Podunkvilles of the Midwest where the cattle line up in one direction for a substantial period of time while grazing or relaxing. Safe to say that we shouldn’t believe all the bull we hear when discussing the intricacies of rural.

 

17. Fifty cows will be let into the fifty acres next door any day now. In a few months, this four-foot high grass will be eaten down and a farmer will truck in grain to supplement it. See, we take our adventures where we can get them.

 

18. Patience is a rural virtue. That transport inches along, a farmer in a slow truck. In Iowa, the horn is a vehicle’s vestigial organ; we don’t use it often but to get the attention of a chicken pecking at the road or an escaped cow chomping a ditch.

 

19. So much of the Midwest ties us down, the corn rows and cabbages, family firmly planted, deeper roots than any oak left standing when it’s over. So much ties us down, heavy-laden, cranked on cloister, hot on wonder, waiting, and a body worn and weary from all that stooping over. So much ties us down when all we really want is some flashy thing to make us feel alive.

 

20. These are days, but not without significance.  Roadblocks, every journey has them. Religion in that high corner, politics in the low. When the price of gas for our tractors outstrips the demand for grain, we’ll be digging holes in the ground too, stashing goods, hording dreams. The only difference between here and there is the amount of land under our feet.

______________

 

First published in Cimarron Review, Winter 2018, Issue 202

 

 

 

Chila Woychik is originally from the beautiful land of Bavaria. She has been published in numerous journals including Cimarron and Passages North, and has released an essay collection, Singing the Land: A Rural Chronology (Shanti Arts, 2020). She won Storm Cellar's 2019 Flash Majeure Contest and Emry's 2016 Linda Julian Creative Nonfiction Award. These days she tends sheep, chickens, and two aging barn cats, and roams the Iowan outback. She also edits the Eastern Iowa Review. www.chilawoychik.com  

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