TURTLE ISLAND QUARTERLY 20
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}
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.
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.
poem by Karen McPherson
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
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
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
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.
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.
poem by Darryl Lorenzo Wellington
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
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.
poem by Sara Backer
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.
poem by Paul Willis
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.
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.
poem by Michael Estabrook
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).
poem by Robert Knox
ClematisLooking Down at Us
Like fallen stars
great violet wheels descending on tame,unwary
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.
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.
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.
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
Where once a thing, creature, human,
Lived - there was living
Empty holes of scoria
There is no tidal effect
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
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.
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).
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.
essay by Chila Woychik
“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