TURTLE ISLAND QUARTERLY 10
poem by Kelley Jean White, poem by Jim Davis,
poem by Karla Linn Merrifield, poem by Eric Fisher Stone
poem by Kelley Jean White
Open the bee-skep, peel back the honeycomb, hands
swollen with stings, force it full against your mouth,
tongue numbed with sweet heat; Demeter lay the child
in the fire each night. What was her curse when caught?
Womb-food, golden-calf; born like Mordred in cave-dark
damp, the cadaveric flat stomach turned widershin out,
the seed that bears fruit, the fruited seed, the crazed woman
at the door calling, “My child, give me my child.” Lock.
Childhood reading: the child tests the oven with an arm,
pushes the witch inside and locks the door. One “witch,”
tied, pregnant, in the fire, split her womb. The child spills,
perfect formed, cries. The monks lay it back on the flames.
Think of the child, alien floating in space, translucent
skin and thumb in forming mouth, bobbing, fog voices raining
outside, stopper in a hot water bottle, rubber red thick
and wobbling, creature of blood, blister, amnion, caul.
See, she rocks herself, sucks three fingers, swallows
her own hair; the thick dragon muscle, the tongue that pushes
out. Retroverted. Anteverted. Retroflexed. Burlap bag.
Wasp nest. Quick, circlage. the poison, the wings,
the worm child inside. A stone. A stone in the womb
to slake thirst like a cherry pit behind the tooth or a coca
leaf chewed. Unzip. The black yolk. The clot of blood.
The first hair twins. The red-red embryo throbbing
in the frying oil. Run the orchidometer rosary, smooth ivory;
clutch; size the nut in the palm of your grasping hand. Man
child. Empty slipper. Bag of worms. Eat. Pressed duck.
Stuff a turkey neck. Thrust it at your brother. Cock fight.
Shake. Bread loaf. Vase. Butcher shop. Jar. Bottle neck.
Blow a sweet tune across the taut turning hole. Rubber glove.
Cervix. Ovary. Spit fire. Release. The door opens. Destiny,
Goodbye. Bury my blood cake. Under the threshold.
A few years ago Kelley Jean White was able to return to her New Hampshire roots after practicing pediatrics in inner city Philadelphia for thirty years. Her work has been published widely in journals including Exquisite Corpse, Nimrod, Poet Lore, Rattle, and the Journal of the American Medical Association, and in a number of chapbooks and full-length collections, most recently ‘Lotus Feet’, (Finishing Line Press), and TWO BIRDS IN FLAME (Beech River Books). She has also received a number of honors including a 2008 grant for poetry from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts and have been nominated 16 times for a Pushcart Prize. Her work has also been included in two recent anthologies by physician writers, BODY LANGUAGE: POEMS OF THE MEDICAL TRAINING EXPERIENCE, from Boa Editions, and PRIMARY CARE, from the University of Iowa Press.
poem by Jim Davis
Ode to the Spirit Animal
of summer’s final rose, which is not the Emperor
Penguin, so full of itself, & mackerel; not
the Snow Leopard, more cunning than steadfast.
Instead, the spirit belongs to the bird perched
on a trans-arctic ship, keeping rigid lookout
for land & repast, staying fast until it dies –
no pity in the distance from axon to spine
to tip of talon or wing. It dies with open eyes.
A dull yellow rain slicker on the ferryman
charged to brave the deck with spade in glacial
volley to scrape frozen fowl from the rail.
The last rose of summer sits atop the casket
where my aunt in her white gloves set it.
A pillow to hold down my uncle’s side of the bed.
JIM DAVIS is a student of Human Development and Psychology at Harvard University and has previously studied at Northwestern University and Knox College. He reads for TriQuarterly and his work has appeared in Bellevue Literary Review, The Harvard Crimson, Portland Review, Midwest Quarterly, and California Journal of Poetics, among others. He has received multiple Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominations and won many contests, including the Line Zero Poetry Prize. In addition to writing and painting, Jim is an international semi-professional American football player. @JimDavisArt
poem by Karla Linn Merrifield
The elsewhere of longing is habitat of armadillo,
predisposed to forage by moonlight under sabal palm
and the otherness of longing belongs to barred owls,
in their desire to haunt imaginations’ far side,
and to the impossible longing of Spanish moss in luminous lunar filigree,
like tresses of Venus shrouding, her silver-green draperies
darkness in the hour of the feral hog, midnight
and suddenly, suddenly from the scrubland forest:
with a line from Ralph Waldo Emerson
A nine-time Pushcart-Prize nominee and National Park Artist-in-Residence, Karla Linn Merrifield has had over 500 poems appear in dozens of journals and anthologies. She has eleven books to her credit, the newest of which is Bunchberries, More Poems of Canada, a sequel to Godwit: Poems of Canada (FootHills Publishing), which received the Eiseman Award for Poetry. Her anthology THE DIRE ELEGIES: 59 Poets on Endangered Species of North America (FootHills) is in its second-going-on-third edition and has been an assigned text in college enviro-lit classes. A widely published photographer, she serves as editor and poetry book reviewer for The Centrifugal Eye, and is a member of the board of directors of Just Poets (Rochester, NY), and a member of the New Mexico State Poetry Society, the Florida State Poetry Society and TallGrass Writers Guild. Visit her blog, Vagabond Poet, at
poem by Eric Fisher Stone
Laying their eggs
in frayed coats, in yellowed sheets,
on rusted petals from burned orchids,
they rise in a flail
of haybrown wings,
their dusted ghosts tattering
a streetlamp’s boiling star
trying to nibble away the light.
Swimming with junebugs,
a song of forces tender as hair
snaps powerlines and crumbles chimneys,
their candle flame flight
so soft they cannot break.
In the city, tires squeal in vain,
humming railroads plugged
by earthen clods,
steel sledgehammers flower-dampened.
The train’s hornsong
tapers into blackness. The world’s power
stirs in the Milky Way’s white broth,
in velvet moths singing
unmaking into beginning,
the providence of grass.
Drab moths glister in the moon
that dances with the sea,
the whole rounded night
frosted with suns.
The small pulse opening wings
The universe is holy.
Eric Fisher Stone lives in Fort Worth, Texas where he graduated from Texas Christian University, and now works at a PetSmart. His poems have appeared most recently in Eunoia Review, Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review, and The Blue Collar Review, and are forthcoming in Third Wednesday, The Lyric, Uppagus, and New Mexico Review.