Turtle Island Quarterly 6
Ted Jean (3 poems), Polly Brown (1 poem), Kyle Laws (1 poem), Robert Gibbons (1 poem)
THREE POEMS BY TED JEAN
Sonnet recited in one long breath
Who, for Chrissake, would chuck
a big quince branch
pregnant with incipient bloom
over the fence onto my frosty lawn
except as a kind of anonymous gift
that if undiscovered a week
would be withered and wasted
and now stands
instead quite fortuitously
coral and white and bloody red
in a big blue vase
on the mahogany piano
by the window green with rain?
Pigweed is not
the nephrite neon spark
of the arc between
the mineral third rail
of the A-train aquifer
rumbling in the gut
of the earth, electric,
and the sun digit
the suddenly opening
spattered sash of the
rain tattered ion sky.
It is but pigweed,
The slope above their patio being weedy
and undifferentiated, he proposed a wall,
to impose order and an asymmetric Zen balance.
Forty miles into the Coast Range he found
a redneck who sold broken basalt, and gave
him the run of the yard, to hand pick each stone.
He loaded alone, no backhoe, even
several blocks twice his weight, by tumbling
and sliding up a rubble ramp to the truck bed.
He dug and filled a stable gravel footing,
then knitted each rock to its neighbors, finding
cold chisel and hammer less useful than hunch.
Finished wall, he judges with wine, is beyond
his guessed capacity for craft. Lyn left him yesterday.
Ted Jean writes, paints, plays tennis with lovely Amy Lee. His work appears in Beloit Poetry Journal, PANK, DIAGRAM, Juked, Other Poetry (UK), Gargoyle, and many other publications.
POEM BY POLLY BROWN
He figures something might change
once his image of a tree
includes the roots.
The Charter Oak
on a Connecticut quarter
rises with only a gnarled foot-note
to its life below the ground—
but his daughter, by telephone,
agrees: most likely the roots
reached as wide
as the branches, and deep.
“But remember?” she says—
and in the college woods he revisits
that hemlock felled years ago
in a downburst:
roots a vast shallow saucer,
underside knitted to fit
those hollows upended in air
like phantom pains
hugging close to the form
of what used to be theirs.
He drives back across town.
As usual, news on the radio
spells trouble: we’ve landed
in Germany’s early thirties;
his generation failed.
The mail’s no better.
He sets out with the dog for a walk;
nods to roots now sealed
under the slab of Parking Lot 12—
no longer connected in any way
to the sky—
then succumbs, at last, to the comfort
of Mandy’s feathery tail,
her pee soaking into the subterranean
secrets of a plane tree
down the block, one that has broken
the sidewalk, heaved it up,
like some vegetable San Andreas.
His wife could have painted
this: an umber tangle
emblazoned with worms
like curlicues, silver-brown fur
on a woodchuck
whose breath rises
through a root-wound burrow.
Something will change.
Polly Brown lives on a hillside in central Massachusetts, author of a blog about progressive education, ayeartothinkitover.com, and has two poetry chapbooks in print: Blue Heron Stone, (Every Other Thursday Press), and Each Thing Torn From Any of Us (Finishing Line Press). Recent poems have appeared in Appalachia, with mp3’s at Terrain.org, and in an online chapbook, Turning Again to the Well, on themes of preservation, place, and sustainability, linked with a recent sculpture show on the same themes.
POEM BY KYLE LAWS
BEFORE THE LEVEE COMES DOWN
The levee along the Arkansas River through Pueblo, CO,
built for flood control, contains the longest mural in the world.
The top layer will soon come off for repairs and the height
will be shortened. All the paintings will be lost.
Murals stretch up in the afternoon sun
and what’s reflected back into the river
are primary colors painted on the levee
by those who dangled by ropes from the top:
reds, yellows, and blues.
And as the river flows east the blend of primary
becomes secondary: red and yellow become orange,
yellow and blue become green. This is the function
of levee—creation of color as river moves over stones.
Where the river eddies, in the swirl where kayaks
hope not to tangle, are remnants of last night’s party:
barbecued pork rinds mingled with burnt twigs.
Underfoot is a crush of rock that is trail. My boots,
thick-soled, can scale the opposite bank. I can pull
myself up by saplings that know there is water,
that have roots enough to get me to a place
where I can see the murals, not in reflection,
but as if atop the horse Lady Godiva strides
that’s next to the rendition of Joan of Arc.
Even with the smell of algae, I want to drink
of the river, submerge myself hidden in a cluster
of trees, know that as I arch my back to rinse hair
of debris, green will trickle into my mouth.
I stumble down the wooded bank, take off boots
and orange-ringed socks, watch paintings for what
could be the last time while feet whiten cold and
stiff in the river from a slip of rock that extends
into the Arkansas on its way to Kansas.
Kyle Laws’ poems and essays have appeared in Abbey, Anglican Theological Review, Chiron Review, Cities (U.K.), Delmarva Review, here/there: poetry (U.K.) IthacaLit, Journey to Crone (U.K.), Living Apart Together: A New Possibility for Loving Couples (Canada), LUMMOX, The Main Street Rag, Malpaís Review, The Más Tequila Review, Mead: The Magazine of Literature & Libations, Misfitmagazine, The Nervous Breakdown, Pearl, Philadelphia Poets, Pilgrimage, r.kv.r.y Quarterly Literary Journal, and St. Sebastian Review. She’s received four Pushcart Prize nominations. Her collections include Wildwood (Lummox Press, 2014); My Visions Are As Real As Your Movies, Joan of Arc Says to Rudolph Valentino (dancing girl press, 2013); George Sand’s Haiti (co-winner of Poetry West’s 2013 award); Storm Inside the Walls (little books press, 2012); Going into Exile (Abbey Chapbooks, 2012); and Tango (Kings Estate Press). She is editor of Casa de Cinco Hermanas Press. www.kylelaws.com
POEM BY ROBERT GIBBONS
at the feet of Lincoln
(for Henry Waldo Coe)
it was just steps away
from my California impressionism
his feet large
as an Oregon white oak
the choking haze of Mt. Hood
local boys congregate near
maybe to hear the sounds
of the transcontinental railroad
the trees spread
like the homestead act
its Lincoln and Teddy
rough and rider
am held up
on this great train robbery
N. C. Wyeth paints
a hobo gathers his belongings
in this big sky of salmon rushes
the land ampliﬁes
searching for fool’s gold
Robert Gibbons moved to New York City in the summer of 2007 in search of his muse—Langston Hughes. Robert has featured in many venues around New York City as well as in Washington, D.C., Maryland and Florida. He most recently has offered his poetic performances in such places as Cornelia Street Café, the Church of the Village, the Saturn Series, Perch Café, Barnes and Noble, Stark Performances, Otto’s Shrunken Head, Poets on White, Nomad’s Choir, Taza de Café and many others. Robert has been published in Uphook Press, Three Rooms Press, Stain Sheets, Brownstone Poets Anthology, Dinner with the Muse, Cartier Street Review, Nomad’s Choir and the Palm Beach Post. Robert just released his first collection of poetry, Close to the Tree, published by Three Rooms Press.