TURTLE ISLAND QUARTERLY 11
2 poems by Ted Jean, 2 poems by Gary J Whitehead,
poem by Kyle Laws, poem by Eric Paul Shaffer
TWO POEMS BY TED JEAN
Warts across the flank of infinity
The hawking eorl
hankered by his unblindered bird
to gauge the world
beyond his brute legs, and
gazing, he got, he thought,
the celestial knot of it.
Stephen argues halt
singular questions, his palsied palms
flashing cards crossed with
inelegant ciphers, perhaps
persuasive, as his parting wife
collapses into a black hole.
Between the leaf being bright,
and light again,
lies an eternity of darkness.
a small enough carnage
can be hidden in the fold
of a single sheet of wax paper
but questions of ethics
remain: can you chuck it
into the garbage can with
other otherwise redeemable
bio waste, like
a wilted cabbage leaf?
or, more responsibly,
must you scrape it, naked,
with its little potent charge
of blood and bones and bile,
into the communal
Ted Jean, a carpenter, who also writes, paints, and plays tennis with lovely Lai Mei. His work appears in Beloit Poetry Journal, [PANK], DIAGRAM, Juked, dozens of other publications. He has recently won our 2016 Turtle Island Poetry Award for his chapbook Desultory Sonnets, recently published by Flowstone Press.
TWO POEMS BY GARY J WHITEHEAD
Little basilicas have formed on the lawn,
pure white stipes and caps like separated cream,
places to congregate for ants and gnats.
Conjured by a storm, born out of warm ground,
they just as soon turn sad, blacken and sag,
their fruited bodies roofed with slime.
Up the spiral staircase and down again
plod the soldiers of God. And here I am
ruminating on the comely and the poisonous,
plucking them this religious afternoon,
gall for gall, in the way of all destroying angels,
whom only time can rebuke or chasten.
Things Will Grow Most Anywhere
A fern from a rock face, no soil inside.
Grass from a crack in a killing field skull.
Toad in a window well, frog on a Brooklyn
Tree of Heaven from a rusted
truck hell-bent on staying parked in the woods
grown around it.
Once, I found a red eft
that had taken up residence in the sole
of my boot.
Another time, a red rascal
potato climbing out of a farmhouse
cabinet in Eldora, Iowa,
feeding on sawdust and its own brown rot.
Everybody can think of something living
where it shouldn't, sprouting out of or around---
the tree on Vashon Island, Washington
that seems to have eaten a bicycle,
or the one at a California college
towering from a piano.
abhors a vacuum, but in a dump somewhere,
phlox blossoms from an Electrolux.
Just as we go on growing on the icy poles,
the stifling equator, the wind-swept peaks,
the mosquito-infested bayous,
with bullets in our backs, nails in our heads,
with someone else attached at the hip,
or missing our ears or eyes or limbs
but sprouting cysts and tumors, skin tags
And some of us
with hearts ripped out of others
and adapting to the caves of our chests.
Gary J Whitehead’s third collection of poems, A Glossary of Chickens, was published by Princeton University Press in 2013. Recent poems appear or are forthcoming in The New Yorker, The New Criterion, and The American Journal of Nursing.
POEM BY KYLE LAWS
A Low Hum
after an installation by Ryan Seward
A low hum underneath every sound out the window
along the riverwalk I thought first
was a rebroadcast of poetics of resplendent decay
(the sounding of pueblo) installation
in Betty’s Costumes stripped down to walls
and cement floors so that when I spill red wine
it becomes an interesting shape as a man in a cape
and cumberbun helps me mop up with his foot
saying mopper was a job he held before a Ph.D.
Sound began underwater in the river and moved
to Power Stations 5 & 6 trying to be saved
the lit architectural rendering carried on a litter
by Mark Mihelich and friend Saturday night
after the band set up and a woman wailed a tune
amplified as much by the lake between plant
and falls as the P.A. system while children and parents
wind in a column out of the dark where
diesel generators once stood.
Nature and industry combined in a chorus
not a cacophony but orchestrated in harmony
with signals as trains couple and uncouple in the station —
what remains strident is the call of geese
after the close of day as they make their way late
to lakes and ponds that surround downtown
not even the decibel of sound from a highway underpass
as jarring or loud as their path of migration
along the Arkansas River.
Kyle Laws' collections include So Bright to Blind (Five Oaks Press, 2015); Wildwood (Lummox Press, 2014); George Sand's Haiti (co-winner of Poetry West's 2013 award); My Visions Are As Real As Your Movies, Joan of Arc Says to Rudolph Valentino (dancing girl press, 2013); 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 and publications director for the Pueblo Poetry Project.
POEM BY ERIC PAUL SCHAFFER
Ode to a Mosquito
me ke aloha pumehana
Hail to thee, lithe sucker! Mosquito, you are the human totem
for the new millennium. (Dare I say, last millennium? Perish
the thought!) Yours are our worst favorite and familiar features.
You blew into the islands with us on the west wind. We carried
you here in barrels with the wonders of a world we stole,
cash, cannons, cars, and big bombs to crack the islands and salt
the springs to our cosmopolitan taste. You are worldly, human-
wise, and your facts are itchy points, red and raised on every face.
Truly, you are the sleek, slick, sexy vampire of the spirit.
You are like we are. You suck blood. You disseminate disease.
Your injection is our dejection. Your whine pierces our sleep.
You seek heat and prey upon all the breathing who burn with life,
and you strike them where they lie. Your hunger knows no end.
You breed in stagnant places. You hunt your hot, red food through
dark miles. You add insult to injury, for you steal blood and shit
beneath the skin before departing. You leave an itch and a welt
when you fly, your belly bulging. You are the grand colonizer,
an explorer, a bug of discovery, the Columbus of insects. Native
nowhere, you colonize the world. You sing your constant song
beyond the web of wire in balmy darkness above my head. If truth
is beauty, and beauty truth, your whine magnifies each passing year.
Eric Paul Schaffer is the author of six books of poetry, including A Million-Dollar Bill (2016), Lāhaina Noon (2005), Living at the Monastery, Working in the Kitchen (2001), and Portable Planet (2000).