TURTLE ISLAND QUARTERLY 11

Fall/Winter 2016

 

Chapter One:

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.

minor enigma

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

compost pile?

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

Destroying Angel

 

 

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

fire escape.

                        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.

                                              Nature 

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 melanomas.

                                  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).