TURTLE ISLAND QUARTERLY 4
SPRING 2014

 
Chapter 2:

Alexa Mergen, Katharyn Howd Machan, Sara Backer



Poem by Alexa Mergen

 

 


Diospyros virginiana

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

Persimmons: orange
u.f.o.s dotting skies of transformation

Fall fruit of valley trees
Fall fruit of valley
Fall fruit
Fall


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

                                                                                    for Carol
 
                        ACCEPTING SEPTEMBER

                        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.

 

 


                        CHRISTMAS EVE
 
                        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
                        coldly disappear
                        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.


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