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TURTLE ISLAND QUARTERLY 4
Alexa Mergen, Katharyn Howd Machan, Sara Backer
Poem by Alexa Mergen
Inside a persimmon, an eight-pointed star
A knife slices and wise women foretell the severity of winter
from the curved white sprout within a slit black seed
Cold winds ahead
The sphere’s two halves flame oceans for a galleon to sail
tipping from edges of flat worlds into what
One dozen fist-sized fruits a friend collects
to present in a basket lined with leaves
Spoon the pulp onto lips in cuplets of silver
Cook the flesh with cinnamon into pudding and tart
Provider of vitamin A to apes dependent on sight
Curvy succulent ornaments of bare-limbed branches
Persimmons: Pomona’s gown
as she wields a blade over Rome’s cornucopia
Persimmons: the sadhu’s robes,
as he wanders India empty-handed with desire
u.f.o.s dotting skies of transformation
Fall fruit of valley trees
Fall fruit of valley
Alexa Mergen's poems appear or are forthcoming in numerous journals including Foundling Review, Nimrod, and Prime Number. 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. Her articles on poetry appear in Front Porch, HerCircle and Passages North. She edits the blogs Day Poems and Yoga Stanza and has published two chapbooks; a full-length poetry collection is coming from Salmon in 2015. alexamergen.com
Two Poems by Katharyn Howd Machan
So she won’t pluck basil this year.
So she won’t grind pine nuts
with garlic and cheese, oil
of crushed olives golden as time.
Fox tells herself swift seasons change
and she can’t control the world.
So music will happen a distance
away, dance will leave her
standing. Can’t she wear a costume
of trees, a Wild Woman’s face
careening? Wisteria tangles long
reaching thin vines, yellowing now
but sassily promising
winter won’t win
and purple will dangle again.
Fox knows the female raccoon’s dying
in pain—distemper? rabies?—some
harsh way she’s ending her short
wild life, small head pressed hard
to pavement. Bright apples, warm
parts of hen so succulent with
tempting taste Fox brings to her
where her tail falls limp, fur
matted, eyes gone dull. Raccoon
the Iroquois called “digging bear,”
raccoon unique on this earth:
Fox knows sister when she
sees sister, power to touch
far stars with paws’ width,
black mask the essence of night
closing in on her now as fear
turns her into a shudder, a lurch,
winter denying her last prayer
to give birth in green spring.
Fox pulls away, has to
pull away, dark danger to blood
and breath. Beauty and strength
as snowfall covers this death.
Note: These poems are part of a work-in-progress, Fox. She is a kitsune shape-shifter, often zenko (a good fox, known to be poetic and philosophical, and a loving spouse and parent) but also sometimes a trickster, though unlike many of her kind she holds back from luring others to their death. She may be full fox, full human, or a mixture: always her choice.
Katharyn Howd Machan, Professor of Writing at Ithaca College, holds degrees from the College of Saint Rose, the University of Iowa, and Northwestern University. Her poems have appeared in numerous magazines; in anthologies/textbooks such as The Bedford Introduction to Literature, The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2013, Poetry: An Introduction, Early Ripening: American Women’s Poetry Now, Sound and Sense, Writing Poems, Literature: Reading and Writing the Human Experience, etc.); and in 31 collections, most recently H (Gribble Press, 2014) and When She’s Asked to Think of Colors (Palettes & Quills Press, 2009), both winners of national competitions. In 2012 she edited Adrienne Rich: A Tribute Anthology for Split Oak Press.
Poem by Sara Backer
This Is Just to Add
He asked, "Why do poets always
write about the minutiae of nature?"
I said, "Because that's the job." Of course,
poets also write about war, love, death, sex, gods--
i.e. clocks, fudge, polyester, defibrillators, spray paint.
But the job is to make
us notice what is around us
yet does not revolve around us.
This job is never done,
and that’s why I must tell you
about the young fisher I watched at sunrise,
perched in my plum tree like a sleek black cat,
who shook dry, mealy plums to the weedy ground
and sprang down from the branch to eat.
Sara Backer, runner up in last year's Turtle Island Poetry Award, has poems coming out this year in Wolf Willow Journal, Crab Creek Review, Gargoyle, Mobius: A Journal of Social Change, Arc Poetry Magazine, A capella Zoo, and The Rialto. She lives in the Merrimack River watershed and has recently learned to bake. She invented a wicked recipe for strawberry shortcake involving white chocolate chips. She is also the founder of Poetry Thursday and invites everyone to join her commitment to drafting one poem on that day.
click here to go back to chapter one
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