Turtle Island Quarterly Vol. 1 Issue 1

 

CHAPTER ONE:

 

Katherine Soniat (2 poems), William Doreski (3 poems and an essay), Joan Colby (3 poems),

Joseph Bruchac (2 poems),  Michael Spring (3 poems)

 

 

 

 

Katherine Soniat (2 poems)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE PETRI DISH LANDINGS

 

 

This dream won’t talk but opens a door

to the kitchen where I am classified.

The witness.

                    So here they hide. Man,

woman, and their young charge disguised

in layers of each other—bodies that redden

and swim as if in a darkroom.

 

But this is the man whose eyes snapped alive

at our beginning.

                           Tonight’s experiment moves

his hand for mine when three petri dishes bang

down on the counter, and the friction between

us collapses—each dish labeled, No touching with

fingers  Onion and lemon juice arranged n combustible

parts.

 

How come no us, why this joke on proximity?

The way we’re not who we are.

                                                 Fitting fabric

for myth—the lovers disarmed at the cave exit.

Eurydice stuck solidly in darkness

 

 

 

 

 

 

ARRIVAL

 

Eclipse crawls another silvery ball,

and I feel ahead with my feet.

                                              

Black, some say, equals simplicity,

a lack of intricacy—the way my student wanted

"nature to be straightforward, all those dumb personifications

set aside. After all, it's just a place where the animals eat each other up."

 

Soon I'll have the moon to myself

and need to move on.

Me, my own

pawn in the where-to.

 

Once I was sure of something.

The Russian port of Murmansk

had an animal that sounded like it,

and then I recalled marmot.

In that mouthful lived what I'd been looking for,

not furry exactness, but the yearning out

of ahs and ohs.

That flash before the word comes for mountain.

 

One can look years for the right tilt of departure.

The dog howls after the car drives away.

He waits under the tree, his protest,

its own arrival.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Katherine Soniat’s fifth collection of poetry, The Swing Girl, is forthcoming from Louisiana State University Press, and A Raft, A Boat, A Bridge, from Dream Horse Press in 2012. Earlier collections include A Shared Life, winner of the Iowa Poetry Prize. New work appears in recent issues of the Iowa Review, Antioch Review, Hotel Amerika, Image: Art, Faith, and Mystery, Tiferet, and Mid-American Review. She now teaches workshops in the Great Smokies Writing Program at UNC-Asheville. Visit her website.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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William Doreski (3 poems and an essay)

 

 

 

 

 

 

FROM THE SPIRIT-GARDEN

 

 

Sprung from balls of matted rootlets,

parasitic and clammy white,

Indian-pipe so pleased Dickinson

that Mabel Todd painted it

to emboss on the cloth binding

of the poet’s collected letters.

 

As you kneel to stroke the waxy stems

to see them blacken from handling

I recall that Mohicans derived

eye-lotion from part of this plant.

Was it from roots? Stem? The flower

that eventually crowns each column?

 

Much as I like this morbid growth

I fear that touching it might spread

the concept if not the fact

of decay. You laugh because

I keep my distance, cringing

as I watch. Nothing frightens you;

 

nothing in nature disturbs you

the way your failing memory does,

or your lapses into the Polish

you can’t remember learning

as a child. Every June this species

ratchets up beside the driveway,

 

this corpse-plant or ghost-flower

lacking chlorophyll and leaves;

and every spring we admire the way

it grows erect with fruiting

in honor of the rotted matter

on which all fresh effort feeds.

 

 

 

 

 

HOWLING WITH THE WOLF PACK

 

 

Wolves have come down from Canada

to howl on my stoop. Their eyes

burn like incense, their teeth gleam

with expertise. They want me,

even expect me to drop

on all fours and howl with them

all the way back to Canada,

 

to Labrador to prey on seals.

I want to say I don’t believe

in wolves, in Romulus and Remus,

don’t believe in the wolf-man,

don’t believe that howling instead

of speech will solve me. Canada

has always felt too small, too sane

 

to fill me with sufficient resolve

to break the cycle and convict me

of the animal within. Meanwhile

neighbors complain about the howling,

which frightens dogs and children

and burns the air a nasty shade

of ash. I beg the wolves to stifle

 

that woodsy racket but they claim

it’s their nature. Who can blame them?

I ruffle their wooly hides

and feed them steaks from the freezer.

They eat them unthawed, their jaws

powerfully leveraged, appetites

the sort of simple fact I’ve tried

 

all my life to deny. Today

I have to drive to work and teach

young people to speak clearly

without digression or stutter

or unnecessary barks and howls.

I explain this to the wolves

but they point their long snouts north                    

toward the border, their logic

inexorable. In chorus

they howl and I howl with them

and find myself on all fours moving

with the pack. I’ve always wanted this

but I’m afraid of the raw meat,

the blood on the forest floor.

 

Too bad. I’m one of them now,

all fang and claw, my students

forgotten along with the speech

I taught as if I were human,

the primal forest absolving me,

a rough warm pelt concealing me

from whoever I used to be.

 

 

 

 

 

MY FAVORITE MICAS

 

 

We found my favorite micas—

biotite, muscovite, lepid-

olite— at the Chester Mica Mine,

a site abandoned so long ago

that the gravel road up the slope

had disappeared in forest long

before my father and I scouted

for hand-sized specimens museums

would envy. Biotite: brownish black,

greenish black, pearly, colorless streak.

Thin plates tough and elastic.

Monoclinic crystals. Muscovite:

white or colorless, sometimes pink,

yellow, greenish. Perfect cleavage.

Occurs with albite and tourmaline,

two of my favorite minerals.

Lepidolite contains lithium,

crops up in granite rather

than pegmatite, and commonly

looks pink or lilac. All three

flourished in the mine talus

at Chester, where pegmatite

had extruded through granite and cooled

into masses of feldspar and quartz

with grave black tourmaline speared

through the matrix. My father and I

bagged our specimens and slid

or skipped down the rubble-slope

and found my mother sound asleep

in the car, the white light of summer

resounding, the AM radio

crooning, the sack of minerals

a hefty and comforting sample

of the familiar post-glacial view.

 

 

 

 


On “My Favorite Micas.”

 

When I was in my early teens I became obsessed with mineral collecting. Before then, I had peered through a microscope at pond water protozoa, generated stinks and pops with my chemistry set, and built and fired a model rocket that speared into the roof of a neighbor’s barn. My commitment to science was deep and absolute. A friend’s father worked at the Springfield (Massachusetts) Museum of Natural History as curator of the shell collection, lecturer on astronomy in the little planetarium, and janitor. Under his loose supervision, I spent hours browsing the museum’s impressive mineral collection, learned enough astronomy to lecture to crowds of grammar school kids, and on Saturdays displayed the resident python by allowing it to entwine me while children gasped. More important to me, though, than the cosmos or the zoological world, the minerals spoke from the depths of the earth, and I had to have my own collection. So on weekends I nagged my parents to drive me to the various mineral localities described in a pamphlet issued by the museum. I scouted every old mine and quarry in the Berkshire foothills, assembling a modest but satisfying collection.

 

A poem however, is more than subject matter. The descriptive language of science has a richness of its own, and I framed this with a simple narrative, triangulated by my father, mother, and me. Without the family dynamic (the father shares his son’s interest, while the mother remains indifferent but cooperative) to overlay on the simple act of collecting the specimens, the poem would probably seem too thin. The detail of the AM radio “crooning” helps place the poem in time. Without that detail it might seem entirely a poem of material, spatial relations. Although the topic might be the physical basis of our existence, the narrative crosscuts that with movement and memory. Although fictional in the sense that this is a compression and redaction of probably a hundred similar trips, using an actual place name keeps the poem anchored to the world beyond the imagination.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

William Doreski teaches at Keene State College in New Hampshire. His most recent books of poetry are City of Palms and June Snow Dance, both 2012. He has published three critical studies, including Robert Lowell’s Shifting Colors.  His essays, poetry, fiction, and reviews have appeared in many journals, including Massachusetts Review, Atlanta Review, Notre Dame Review, The Alembic, New England Quarterly, Worcester Review, Harvard Review, Modern Philology, Antioch Review, and  Natural Bridge.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Joan Colby (3 poems)

 

 

 

 

 

 

LINEN POEM

 

 

Let us testify to the integrity of linen.

The winnowing, retting and scutching,

How it is heckled with combs.

The mummy wraps of archeology

Retained in the sarcophagus

Of the unearthed tomb.

Leviticus proscribes against

Mingling linen and wool.

Abomination of animal and vegetable

Kingdoms. The purity of linen

Must never be questioned. Linen

Of good intentions, of the flaxen fields.

 

 

 

 

 

 

LINEN POEM II

 

 

Observe the colonial

Diplomat in his linen suit

Strolling the boulevards

Wiping his damp brow

With a linen handkerchief.

The irregular polygons

Coarse and cooling.

Watch the woman in a

Slubbed linen sheath

Lift her glass of G&T as she

Lounges in a lawn chair

Viewing a cricket match in the year

Before the Great War. Look up

Into the night sky as the moon rises.

There floating like stars are angels

Clad in fine white linen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

LINEN POEM III

 

 

A cedar chest of hopes

Carefully folded so on an eventual

Afternoon when someone takes her hand

And promises, she will open it, nervous

And curious as Pandora

Searching for any infestation.

She shakes out her caution: the linens

For the bed she’s made and must lie on.

All that was cherished loses crispness

In the closet where the monograms

Design, washed and ironed over and over

Fades into anonymity. The savor

Of their bodies, disinfected,

Bleached and starched.

 

 

 

 

 

 

JOAN COLBY‘s most recent collection is Dead Horses, published by Future Cycle Press. She has been the editor of Illinois Racing News (a monthly publication for the Illinois Thoroughbred Breeders and Owners Foundation) for over 25 years. In addition to seven previous poetry collections, her work has appeared in Poetry, Portland Review, South Dakota Review, The Spoon River Poetry Review, New York Quarterly, Prairie Schooner, and Western Humanities Review, among others.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Joseph Bruchac (2 poems)

 

 

 

 

 

 

SPEAKING


When you speak,
seeing not through
your self but through
the eyes of the land,
the voice you hear
is no longer yours.

You have not planned
the words you speak,
your only script
is the indrawn breath
that brings to you
the scent of pine,
brings to your throat
the first morning mist,
brings to your lungs
the cedar smoke
from the fire
where stones
are heartbeat of flame.

So you speak
and what you say
when it is given
voice this way

speaks with the wind
and all things that breathe,
wli dogo wongan,
all our relations.
 

 

 


 

 

WITHOUT ME


My favorite comfortable brown slippers,
the denim shirt I put on this morning,
the lenses that sharpen my sight,
the watch strapped to my wrist,

all are destined to be broken,
worn out or lost in time.

Nothing that I own will remain.

Even this body,
on which I’ve relied
will not stay faithful
to my breath
but make new alliance
with microbes and earth.

Yet, for some reason
I cannot explain,
I’m smiling at
a wet winter leaf

pressed like an open hand
on the clear window pane.


 

 

 

 

Joseph Bruchac is the founder of the Greenfield Review Press, a leading publisher of work by Native authors. Joseph Bruchac’s own honors include the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Native Writers Circle of the Americas and a National Endowment for the Arts Poetry fellowship. Author of over 130 books, his work often reflects his Abenaki ancestry and his lifelong commitment to preserving indigenous stories, traditions, and languages. His newest book of poetry, a bilingual collaboration in Abenaki and English with his son Jesse, is NISNOL SIBOAL/ TWO RIVERS (2012).

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Michael Spring (3 poems)

 

 

 

 

 

 

WALKING AWAY

 

 

the neighborhood dogs didn’t hear me

when I climbed over the fence

 

and passed the yellow plastic Buddha

and the smashed grocery cart tangled in ivy

 

I walked around the brambles

and the hobo camps

where hotdogs burned on garbage can lids

 

when I found the red clay banks

I followed the river

looking for rainbows on the surface of fish

 

I walked under the tree

where Regina hanged himself 

beyond the brown scum of river shallows

and the muck gripping tin cans

and broken bottles

 

I walked over mildewed clothes

to avoid stepping on the dead gull

 

I’m lucky the neighborhood dogs didn’t hear me

as I followed the river

over boulders and fallen trees

into a field of tall grass

 

 

 

 

 

 

RATTLESNAKE

 

 

there’s the rattlesnake again

this time in my waking dream

 

yesterday a dead branch

latching onto my foot

 

today, submerged in dry leaves,

the eroding bungee cord

 

I’ve been holding on

to the coiling image, the actual

rattlesnake I saw last year, carefully

in a glass aquarium I formed in my mind

 

I’m tired of timidly studying

its movements and reactions

 

I smash the glass          

allow the snake to pour forth

 

and follow the stream of muscle –

 

the flexible scales

feathering light

 

 

 

 

 

 

ARTERIAL SCRIPT

 

 

I pull the draw blade over the fir pole

peel back the dry, brittle bark

until I reach the moist

and flesh-like limbs of the wood

 

I do this for the aesthetic value

and for strengthening

the integrity of the pole for the building

 

I see evidence of the cambium bark beetle –

the arterial script –

engraved passages that worm the distance

of the pole I will now stop peeling

 

originally slated to be a rafter for the roof

will now be a lintel over the door, or an exposed perling

above our bed

 

an ornate and numinous muscle

holding the roof above our heads

 

 

 

 

 

 

Michael Spring is the author of three poetry collections. His latest book Root of Lightning was a finalist for the 2012 Eric Hoffer Book Award. New poems have appeared (or are forthcoming) in Atticus Review, Cirque, Flyway, Gargoyle, Innisfree, LUMMOX, Neon, Sleet, Spillway, Toe Good Poetry, and What the River Brings; Anthology of Oregon River Poems. Michael lives in O'Brien, OR. He is a natural builder, a martial art instructor, and a poetry editor for The Pedestal Magazine.