TURTLE ISLAND QUARTERLY 21
2 poems by Vivian Eyre, poem by Jayne Marek, poem by Mary Beth Hines,
2 poems by Mark DeCarteret, poem by Barbara Parchim, poem by Will Cordeiro,
poem by Kathleen Brewin Lewis, 2 poems by Michael Spring, poem by Caroline Johnson,
poem by Barbara Daniels, poem by Martin Willitts Jr., poem by Pepper Trail,
poem by Sara Backer, poem by John L. Stanizzi, lyric essay by M.J.Iuppa
2 poems by Vivian Eyre
— at Dead Man’s Cove, Southold, NY
On the grassy fringe, autumn’s light slips off
the corrugated roof of the Whale House. No one there.
Except the broad skull, the jaw gape of a finback
whale strutted wall-to-wall, front to back.
I walk up to the sleek, bleached-out skele,
the hard envelope of its mouth. Never have I been as close
to depths of lightlessness. Gingerly placing my hand through
the window of the eye, bits of bone crumble onto my palms.
My shame scuttles away when I see, on nearby shelf—
this whale’s baleen. Bone-fringed bristles like hairbrushes
in the mouth. With one toothless gulp, the sea sieves out,
the slurped-up small fry krill.
Such an immense body. Even though the throat pleats unfold,
would it take a whole day to feel full?
I unhinge the baleen, anchor the mouth bone to my lips.
Blunt fumes, the undigested fishiness fills my chest.
I feel enormous. The sea floods into my open mouth—
its chills, fevers, shudders, bitters, the untranslatable whole of it,
the whole sea as swill & swallow. I drift below jagged swells
near the lighthouse. A green light sweeps over shipwrecked rocks.
What do you think? My dad asks the shop boy
in the marine supply store. They look great, the teen nods
toward my dad’s boat feet. I guess they did—considering
the cracks across the orthopedic sneakers
he had been wearing. Plimsolls! dad announces, remarkably,
since he often calls me by my sister’s name.
Later he’ll ask the name of these boat shoes. Sounds like . . .
a gin cocktail, umbrella, pimples, the pine-scented aerosol.
Once I say, Plimsoll, he’ll say: load line
on a hull as if we were playing the game: What is it?
It’s the waterline on the hull of the ship
if the sea rises above the line, cargo drenches.
Here in this shop, dad’s stare, hypnotic, in the full-length mirror.
Staring at what? His tonsured head, the half-moon pouches
under his eyes, belly swell against the buckle’s despair,
the patch where the needles for dialysis bit.
Okay son, he says. Not to the shop boy who’s vanished.
Not to me. I want to believe that he’s speaking to
the part of himself before nautical twilight—the stars
still bright enough to vessel out to sea.
Vivian Eyre is a New York-based poet, and the author of the poetry chapbook, To the Sound (Finishing Line Press). Her poems have been published or will soon appear in literary journals such as The Massachusetts Review, The Fourth River, Moon City Review, Pangyrus, The Buddhist Poetry Review, Quiddity, Bellingham Review, Asheville Poetry Review, Permafrost, Spoon River Poetry Review as well as translated in Italian. She was a finalist for the Dorothy Daniels Award, and a semi-finalist for Calyx’s Lois Cranston Memorial Poetry Prize. A former judge of the North Fork’s annual student Poetry for Peace Project, Vivian leads poetry workshops in recreation centers, libraries and museums. She serves as the guest curator for the Southold Historical Society’s Whale House, and rescue volunteer for cold stun sea turtles on the shores of Long Island.
poem by Jayne Marek
as open as this sky is
we are on our knees on a stony shore
with shovels, rakes
searching for the enclosed: heavy wet
muscles, lidded fists
an underworld of the blind
we find them: scratched white butter clams
their shells thinly separated to taste
with their brown tubes
we find weighty purple cockles with serrated lips
and mudders, clamshells of the dead
that ooze rich sand
grit stings our wrists and cuts our fingertips
we claw in seeps of brown water
eelgrass and kelp breathe here
the secrets of this life
that shoot loops of water across our feet
and lead us to those creatures that don’t
want to be found or opened
to reveal their complicated sacs
and flesh structures
the fullness of their inner lives—
shameful, that we do not dig
to fill our own hunger
but to succeed
Jayne Marek’s writings and art photos appear in Salamander, Bloodroot, One, Spillway, Eclectica, Calyx, QWERTY, Women’s Studies Quarterly, Grub Street, Cortland Review, Notre Dame Review, The Lake, and elsewhere. Her poetry books include In and Out of Rough Water (2017) and The Tree Surgeon Dreams of Bowling (2018). Winner of the Bill Holm Witness poetry contest, she was nominated for Best of the Net and Pushcart Prizes and held creative residencies at Playa, the Whiteley Center, and Hypatia-in-the-Woods.
poem by Mary Beth Hines
Rising, she owns the split second
shot of her sealed-in-rubber skin
slick with salt, October sun,
long ago girl resurrected, half seal,
feet splayed steady in clockwork tide,
one arm curled around the sun, she fists
high C, drowns the noise of a ratcheting
boat, amps the herons that crisscross
the sky behind her, plunge and scatter
Bonaparte’s insatiable gulls.
Mary Beth Hines writes poetry and short fiction and non-fiction from her home in Massachusetts. Her work appears in journals such as Crab Orchard Review, Literary Mama, Rockvale Review, Sky Island Journal and SWWIM Every Day among many others.
2 poems by Mark DeCarteret
are only able
to enjoy them
or seeing to
the same mess
I make every year
of my own half
an acre unlike
to hear their
or the others so
so far out of reach
nope, the dawn
hadn’t so much said
all that needed saying
as denied us that end
we’d sent in the petition
letting us dangle from the sun
despite our most unsightly of get-ups
as if all of our life was staged
in front of a mountain
more paint rag at this
angle or maybe even rain
until one of us wandered out
the other side doing badly
smothered by all
we had dashed off
little left of desire
but what is felt
Mark DeCarteret has appeared in 400 journals, 25 anthologies, and 6 books—his 7th lesser case will be published by Nixes Mate Books towards the end of 2021. He was Poet Laureate of Portsmouth from 2009 – 2011 and was twice a finalist for New Hampshire's.
poem by Barbara Parchim
What if every bucket of weeds
over the last 40 years
had earned us credits
toward a ration of miles,
or if every load of manure
had been redeemed for minutes
that accrued time for a brief escape
to finally see the Grand Canyon,
Arches or the Kenai peninsula
or the Olympic rainforest,
or even just a picnic on the beach
More gates lead into our garden
than to the road or the wood up the hill
because the garden in her season
demands absolute fealty.
No dalliance is tolerated without penalty -
bindweed run amok in the raspberries
or seedlings parched for lack of water.
Somewhere among the peas and rhubarb
or between the tomatoes and peppers
lies a chasm that has swallowed
a lifetime of also-rans.
Resting side by side
with the sow bugs and earwigs
are the lost dreams and last chances,
unhiked trails and rivers not swum,
dusty pianos and unfinished art.
Bent to the soil these many years
we hoed yet another row,
coaxing and nurturing the garden.
And tending to her needs -
that she might grant us harvest -
we forgot to look up and notice the clouds –
stratus, cirrus, cumulous –
oblivious to our tethers,
adrift on their own course
against the delft-blue sky.
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 Allegro, Jefferson Journal, Isacoustic, Turtle Island Quarterly, Windfall, Front Porch Review, Third Wednesday magazine and others. Her first book has been selected by Flowstone Press to appear in 2021.
poem by Will Cordeiro
I dodder city blocks at night
locked in loops of scattered thoughts.
A shadow swoops. A bat—
a luna moth? No, marooned
above me, a sprightly pygmy
owl squats on landline wires.
An almost otherworldly figure,
this apparition from the wild.
The owl peers down now at my gaze,
the margin of two different glooms,
its hard-edged yellow eyeshot pupils
blazed with moondrunk fire. Quick,
it flies away, a shrunken silhouette
again—I’m left to share its habitat,
dark mixed-up streets with lit-up rooms.
Will Cordeiro has work published or forthcoming in AGNI, Bennington Review, Copper Nickel, The Threepenny Review, and elsewhere. Will won the 2019 Able Muse Book Award for Trap Street. Will is also coauthor of Experimental Writing: A Writer’s Guide and Anthology, forthcoming from Bloomsbury. Will coedits Eggtooth Editions and teaches in the Honors College at Northern Arizona University.
poem by Kathleen Brewin Lewis
-- Magicicada is the genus of the periodical cicadas of eastern North America.
A brood spends 17 years underground before emerging en masse.
Three cicadas left their husks
on the underside of a linden branch,
as if The Rapture had occurred.
The bigger mystery
is what the insects had been doing
underground for 17 years
before they climbed out of the earth
to mate and die.
Once my young hound swallowed one
and ran to me, buzzing and screeching
as if possessed. I pried her muzzle open
and pulled the crunchy creature
from her throat. It scolded us
as it took flight.
The afternoon is warm. I hear
the brood juddering in the yard.
I try to remember where I was
when the cicadas were here before,
ponder where I might be 17 years hence.
Raising children, grieving my father
the last time; on my way
to becoming a husk the next.
Kathleen Brewin Lewis is the author of two chapbooks of poetry, Fluent in Rivers and July's Thick Kingdom (FutureCycle Press 2014 & 2015). Her full-length collection, Magicicada & Other Marvels, is forthcoming from Shanti Arts. Her work has also appeared in Valparaiso Poetry Review, Southern Poetry Review, Southern Humanities Review, Cider Press Review, and several anthologies. A two-time Pushcart Prize nominee and Best of Net nominee, Kathleen is also a certified Georgia Master Naturalist.
2 poems by Michael Spring
I wait for that green flash of her rapid claws
as she captures
an airborne bee or wasp
from the seduction of pollen
I watch her swivel her triangular head
as her five eyes
study the angles for ambush
she moves to the left a fraction of the stem
becomes the subtle budding in the opening
into a flower
somewhere behind me
I can hear a buzz in the air
I watch her sway with the azaleas
in a breeze my skin is just now registering
I find myself swaying, too
her head is bowed into claws full of light
she is a warrior who whispers blessings
for the pollen
and the nourishment it attracts
the pressure on my toes
keeps me from falling forward
I have invisible strands that hold me in place
if I were a wasp or a bee
would I see her shape as a form of wisdom
before I'm suddenly torn from the air?
her raptorial forelegs are full of barbs and spikes
it seems impossible
for anything to escape
glass sculpture for the Wolf Moon
she hands me the wolf
she sculpted with fire and glass
transparent with cobalt blue
glass like smoke inside the wolf's core
as I hold it to light the blue ignites
a cumulous cloud
a churning mass of weather
it is a moon in utero
it is what forms in the moment before
the wolf lifts its head to howl
as I lift the sculpture to my eyes
I see reflections
I see the bottle of red wine before us
and the books wavery against the walls
I see the pinks and browns of her skin
swimming inside the wolf's blues
the walls vanish, and the bottle of wine
floats into her hand
my dream body enters her dream body
her dream body enters mine
Michael Spring, of Southwest Oregon, is the author of five poetry books and one children's book. In 2016 he won a Luso-American Fellowship from DISQUIET International. 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 founding editor of Flowstone Press. 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.
poem by Caroline Johnson
April in Garden of the Gods
Sunlight on sandstone as we make
our ascent to Camel Rock, leaving behind
purple redbuds that adorn the road.
Wildflowers have already burst into bloom--
Bluebell, Trillium, Mayapple, Arrowwood,
Dutchman’s Breeches, Butterweed.
Atop the ancient hill, with its skyscraper boulders
and spring green trees, the violent remains
of a Cooper’s Hawk encounter with a raccoon.
Days ago we slid through Fat Man’s Squeeze,
where lovers have carved their initials into rock
for decades. We stumbled upon a family cemetery
tucked behind a remote one-room chapel.
I want to stay here and admire the blue and pink
of this day, knowing later we will warm ourselves
in a hot tub, settle on the stars, and you will kiss me
despite scars on my chest as we sing with the frogs
drenched in satin moonlight in back of our cabin.
Think. Just this morning I saw two newts on a trail.
And last night you pulled me outside to hear the owls.
Caroline Johnson has two illustrated poetry chapbooks, Where the Street Ends and My Mother’s Artwork, and a full-length collection, The Caregiver (Holy Cow! Press, 2018), inspired by years of family caregiving. She has been nominated for both the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net. Her poetry has appeared on Garrison Keillor’s Writers Almanac, and she has led workshops for veterans and other poets in the Chicago area. She is president of Poets & Patrons of Chicago. Visit her at www.caroline-johnson.com.
poem by Barbara Daniels
They have small, almost human faces.
If I stand long enough in the sun
by the butterfly bush, I start to see
which of them have short antennae
that end in red clubs and which
feel complete when they open
their wings and perch on leaves
to warm their flight muscles. This
gaudy season can’t last forever,
light searing me, small flowers
like purple scars, flat hot surfaces
of skin. I’m silting up. What I feel
is shaped by the words I know:
craving, malice, ennui. The ends
of skippers’ antennae tip backwards
like tiny crochet hooks. Their
bodies are short, stout,
hairy. They see me with their
oversized eyes. My heart empties
like a leaking trash can. Clean me,
I say to the wheeling clouds.
Barbara Daniels’s Talk to the Lioness was published by Casa de Cinco Hermanas Press in 2020. Her poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Lake Effect, Cleaver, Faultline, Small Orange, Meridian, and elsewhere. Barbara Daniels received a 2020 fellowship from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts.
poem by Martin Willitts Jr.
The Circle of Flattened Grass
In the hot, green shadows, a deadfall of silence resonates.
Weather-beaten trees spear the brisk-sudden air.
I find the secret place where a doe gave birth.
Present and past are both residing here. Time curls,
promising infinity will tangle with fragility.
Wind buffets grass that once felt a fawn’s heartbeat.
Land and wind murmur their offering of intense silence,
barely a nudge of a nose. The wind is a raspy tongue
cleaning afterbirth and birdsong-spray.
I’m an intruder of sacredness. Once, new life spilled
like a meteor shower. This place remains undisturbed
until I appear. The unsettling begins, then, in green
shadows, a mere butterfly dart of light and regret.
Life rushes, blooms, departs, whitetails into greenery folds.
When a deer licks her spotted fawn, the otherworldly quiet
knows to wait, rapt with listening. A newborn infuses
with sunbursts, breaking purple skies into pink seashell.
I’m a cruel intruder in this secret pocket of birth.
A sliver of clouds breaks into a careless hush.
I step back,
from this sparkling lost light before dusk,
stars revolving like deer flies,
filling in the blank spaces,
erasing my presence
as a mistake.
All that is
is removed; all
that will be
is still waiting.
Martin Willitts Jr, a Comstock Review editor, has 25 chapbooks including the Turtle Island Quarterly Editor’s Choice Award, “The Wire Fence Holding Back the World” (Flowstone Press, 2017), plus 21 full-length collections including the Blue Light Award 2019, “The Temporary World.” His new full-length is “Harvest Time” (Deerbrook Press, 2021).
poem by Pepper Trail
I choose a writing-place within the scrub
Hidden from the narrow road below
Where the valley shape turns and folds
Concealing all the human marks
The solitary house beyond the curve
The cell tower on the crest behind
First, I enter the roster of my companions
The scattered trees – white oak, ponderosa pine
The opposite ridge a palisade of Douglas-fir
Then, the shrubs encircling my position
Buckbrush, manzanita, the reaching wands of poison oak
Last, the flowers, those I know well enough to name
Desert parsley and pussy-ears, ookow and blue-eyed mary
Thus situated and composed, I wait
A flicker flares to his perch on a far pine
Drums and laughs after each bout of drumming
A hummingbird dives again and again in love or rage
Tearing the air into long ragged strips of sound
Otherwise, it is silent
Is there, on this April afternoon, more to say?
The hectic warblers of the morning are resting now
Like them, I am at peace in my concealment
Like the grass, I move only with the wind
Time, I think, to leave creation to the flowers
Burning fiercely on every stem and twig end
Time to close the notebook, and breathe
Pepper Trail's poems have appeared in Rattle, Atlanta Review, Catamaran, Turtle Island Quarterly, Ascent and other publications, and have been nominated for Pushcart and Best of the Net Awards. His collection, Cascade-Siskiyou: Poems, was a finalist for the 2016 Oregon Book Award in Poetry. He live in Ashland, Oregon, where he works as a biologist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
poem by Sara Backer
Freezing on Mineral Creek Trail
Last winter’s avalanche killed a herd of goats.
Bears came out to eat the thawing carcasses.
I saw a grizzly cub in a culvert a hundred miles
from Valdez. I was afraid to open the car door.
I wasn’t a world, but a woman.
I couldn’t prevent him from seizing,
couldn’t stave off his heart attack,
couldn’t cope with his parents, his children,
his ex—Couldn’t bear to stay, couldn’t bear
to leave. Stuck with cold feet that gradually
chilled upward. Knees, hips, my cold vagina,
cold creeping up the ladder of my spine
to my heart, one spot of red left.
I couldn’t open the door.
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 Arts and reads for The Maine Review. Recent publications include The Pedestal Magazine, Tar River Poetry, Slant, CutBank, and Kenyon Review.
poem by John L. Stanizzi
MANSFIELD DEPOT RESTAURANT FIRE
“Furious fire destroys landmark restaurant.”
-July 2, 2003
Driving from Point O’ Woods,
still a good six miles away from our house,
I wondered if perhaps we should
think of a different route.
We could see, rising up
from the curving hills of Route 31,
from the tree-thick canopy’s top,
fierce smoke erase the sun.
The skeletal drive-in,
all rusted beams at the top of the ridge,
was the vista that showed the scene;
lurching flames near the bridge
by the tracks where The Boot
ran liquor early in Prohibition.
It wasn’t long before the soot
gave in to perdition.
We couldn’t really see;
was it Thompson’s warehouse – bales of feed stacks,
or The Depot Restaurant, three
or four feet from the tracks?
There were flames. There were fumes.
Other than that we couldn’t really tell
what it was that raised such hot plumes,
explosive flares of Hell.
The closer we got to
the scene the louder we heard the fire roar.
It was the Depot in clear view
across from Thompson’s Store.
A heap of glowing char,
the whole thing gone, except the old caboose,
which served as a diner and bar.
Nothing was left of use.
And right across the street,
five generations of Thompsons stood close,
watching the embers" last retreat;
smoke like great-great gramp’s ghost,
and the Montrealer
rumbled along oblivious,
as the four men and the spectre
bowed their heads, closed their eyes.
John L. Stanizzi is author of the collections Ecstasy Among Ghosts, Sleepwalking, Dance Against the Wall, After theBell, Hallelujah Time!, High Tide – Ebb Tide, Four Bits, Chants, Sundowning, and POND. Besides Turtle Island, John’spoems have been widely published and have appeared in Prairie Schooner, TheCortland Review, American Life in Poetry, Praxis, The New York Quarterly,Paterson Literary Review, TheCaribbean Writer, Blue Mountain Review, Rust + Moth, Tar River, Poetlore,Rattle, Hawk & Handsaw, and many others. His work has been translated into Italian andappearS widely in Italy, including in El Ghibli, The Journal of ItalianTranslations Bonafini, Poetarium, and others. His nonfiction has beenpublished in Stone Coast Review, Ovunque Siamo, Adelaide,Scarlet Leaf, Literatureand Belief, Evening Street, Praxis,and others, Johnis Flash Fiction Editor of Abstract Magazine TV, and he has read at venues allover New England, including the Mystic Arts Café, the Sunken Garden PoetryFestival, Hartford Stage, and many others. For many years, Johncoordinated the Fresh Voices Poetry Competition for Young Poets at Hill-SteadMuseum, Farmington, CT. A former Wesleyan University EtheringtonScholar, and New England Poet of the Year, John has received an ArtistFellowship Award in Creative Non-Fiction -- 2021 from the Connecticut Office ofthe Arts for his work on his new memoir. He teaches literature at Manchester Community College in Manchester, CTand lives with his wife, Carol, inCoventry. https://www.johnlstanizzi.com.
lyric essay by M.J.Iuppa
This is What I Found
Four weeks past the gardens being turned over. God-given tomatoes tomatillos, squash begin
to crop up in clumps; and, in case something we planted didn’t survive, we can substitute with
these wild guesses that will be more than we can handle. Often, I wonder if we should just turn
the gardens over and wait to see what shows up.
Showing up— this adage has been my mantra. The strength of being rough and ready versus wanting to find a hideout. In truth, my gardens are my hideout. I can be busy for hours; lost in thoughts few think about. So, when I see the rows peppered with a rash of volunteers, I know I can’t terminate them with the swipe of my hand. I think of a hundred ways to save them, without anyone knowing what I’ve done until it’s too late. What? You’ve done— what?
I turn my back to the question. Isn’t it obvious? You have lived with me for two times the years I
lived with my family. I should be predictable as these perennials. Maybe, not.
We can argue about minutiae. All those precise details that add up to a trifling matter. Our bickering
over what to do is a list of orders that no one obeys. Instead, the gardens thrive in spite of us.
Finding the first yellow flowers opening like summer stars, I wonder if they are my soul? What I
imagine next will be colossal. I know you won’t be disappointed.
M.J. Iuppa is the Director of the Visual and Performing Arts Minor Program and Lecturer in Creative Writing at St. John Fisher College; and since 2000 to present, is a part time lecturer in Creative Writing at The College at Brockport. Since 1986, she has been a teaching artist, working with students, K-12, in Rochester, NY, and surrounding area. Most recently, she was awarded the New York State Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Adjunct Teaching, 2017. She has four full length poetry collections, This Thirst (Kelsay Books, 2017), Small Worlds Floating (2016) as well as Within Reach (2010) both from Cherry Grove Collections; Night Traveler (Foothills Publishing, 2003); and 5 chapbooks. She lives on a small farm in Hamlin NY.