TURTLE ISLAND QUARTERLY 3
Poem by Jeanine Stevens
Two poems by Alexa Mergen
Two poems by Robert King
POEM BY JEANINE STEVENS
On the bluff above the river, the oval owl sleeps secure
in his round hole. Slender pines denote a change in elevation
and somewhere, a flock of five pointed stars exist
just as I have imagined. In human thought there are no
minimums. What seems a void is rapidly filled like soft air
packed in Vermeer’s white pitcher. Always, a decision:
shorten the fugue, omit the tree from the pencil sketch, take
the elbow out of the poem and raisins from the pudding.
The ax handle explains the history of tools. Fossil grains
prove the origin of beans. Even Haiku gives us an entire season.
In the hush of convent and cell, the mind dreams on the wall,
and a slim finger traces our moonlit history in a single night.
Jeanine Stevens has four poetry collections, the most recent, Eclipse, from Rattlesnake Press. She received awards from the Stockton Arts Commission, The Mendocino Coast Writer’s Conference, and the Ina Coolbrith Competition. Her poem, “Trade Goods,” in Ekphrasis, was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Her work has also appeared in Poet Lore, The South Dakota Review, Alehouse, and Poetry Depth Quarterly, among others. She earned her Master’s Degree from California State University, and has completed postgraduate work at University of California, Davis, and Berkeley, including the Oxford-Berkeley Program. Jeanine divides her time between the Sacramento Valley and Lake Tahoe.
TWO POEMS BY ALEXA MERGEN
Knowing accrues in layers.
A woman gathers stones, is
given them to array on a ledge.
Window sun. Crystal sparkle.
Each stone holds her story.
And its own. After her, others’.
Every one ends up far from home.
Chipped, fallen, cut, mined.
Cracked, a geode astonishes,
rivets by revelation within.
Axons & Dendrites
Yellow the color of sun. It comes from the solar plexus
under the rib cage opposite the cockeyed kidneys that purify
our blood. Above, heart green, throat blue. This rainbow within
each body is not an accident. The spine’s spectrum marvelous as a light beam
of refracted rainbow bent by a child lifting a plastic pyramid to a ray
shined through her third-story window by the chary eye of the sky.
Alexa Mergen’s poems appear in journals, anthologies and two chapbooks. She’s been a finalist in the Loft’s Speakeasy Prize and her poem “Distance,” published in Solo Novo, was a clmp Taste Test selection. Alexa edits the blog Yoga Stanza and leads community poetry workshops that incorporate breath, movement and attention to the natural world. For a list of published essays, stories and poems, please visit alexamergen.com
TWO POEMS BY ROBERT KING
The Donkey Again
For years a donkey stood all day
in the field next to our lot, cropping
a weed or two or gazing into
the calm mystery of the air
with the patience of our ancient tree
I took for granted, like the fence
leaning away or the railroad tracks
beyond him, always leaving town.
I wish now I’d tried to feed him,
talked to him, stolen him one night
for a ride, worshiped him with songs
of praise for his mild stoicism.
But more, I realize few children
grew up with anything at peace
on the other side of their fence.
Poor suckers, without a donkey
in their past, their dreams, next door.
What do they know of that wisdom,
knowing everything it needs to.
Oh, I denied knowing him more
than three times but, although he’s dead
by now, he rises, still grazing,
a truth I’m trying to remember.
The Childhood of My Circus
Friends, childhood was like a circus
that day my parents brought me to
the crowded ground in full sunlight
intense with anticipations. A woman stepped out on a thin wire
trembling with music and hope. She was
a future friend of mine, fragile,
balanced, but I didn’t know that.
A man climbed into a cannon
and was astonished when he shot out
although he landed skillfully.
That would have been his divorce.
A clown picked up a bucket
we all thought was filled with water
and hurled it at the audience,
a confetti of splintered poems
glittering in the spotlight.
That’s what I wanted to be,
full of funny misdirection,
winning the gasp of the crowd.
My vocation bowed before me.
As I said, the circus was like
childhood, everything happening,
everything waiting to happen.
Robert King’s first book, Old Man Laughing (Ghost Road Press), was a finalist for the 2008 Colorado Book Award in Poetry. His second, Some of These Days appears from Conundrum Press in 2013. He recently won the Grayson Books Chapbook Competition with his manuscript, Rodin & Co He lives in Greeley, Colorado, where he directs the website