TURTLE ISLAND QUARTERLY 4
Janet A. Baker, Nicole Taylor, Wilda Morris, James Dot
Poem by Janet A. Baker
Stretch the Earth
I am the one now hovering over North America.
A radiant blue dot covers Southern California
where I live now.
In the center of the earth a purple pushpin
bleeds between the Missouri and the Mississippi
into the heart of the continent.
I was the girl who began in the purple pushpin
and ended up here in the radiant blue dot.
You’re always going home, they say,
as I stretch the earth till it’s mostly Great Lakes
and the purple pushpin draws me homeward.
I no longer wonder how birds find their way
to their old nesting places from thousands of miles -
it’s easy when you’re up this high.
I stretch the earth again
into green and beige pixels,
the measured, square acres of my birthplace,
divided up and quartered by precise people
who cut the round earth into squares.
Stretching deeper, the grids of roads marking
perfect square miles where tiny towns nestle,
all the way down to one little town
one unnamed street and one still standing house.
And now I’ve stretched the earth to only one girl.
And now I stretch time.
This is where I was broken like a horse is broken,
this empty town the scene of concrete elevators,
abandoned railroad tracks and storefronts.
Stretching further, over organized rooftops,
vacant green lots, the red-capped water tower
and memories of everything under its shadow.
The old church with rosette stained glass
where they said god above watches everything
even the secret thoughts below everything.
Now I can stretch the earth, stretch time,
a trillion dots of earth and stories
zoom in and out of me.
It’s getting dark, got to pinch the earth over and over,
got to get back home.
Janet A. Baker grew up in the Iowa farm country and, like many Iowans, eventually moved to California. She has had over a hundred poems published in literary journals and anthologies, including About Place, Slant, The Kerf, Rufous City Review, Briar Cliff Review, Cider Press Review, Wild Goose Poetry Review, Room of One’s Own. Janet lives in San Diego and teaches at National University.
Poem by Nicole Taylor
To Stella Park
Near Cathlamet, WA -
Ocean Beach Highway
Stopping at Texaco we pick through
stacks of small sugar and waffle cones
and fountains of double flavor swirls
of vanilla and chocolate. My friend
parks near the bridge at left, near
Ocean Beach Highway we step lightly
across stone and dirt and blackberry. We carry bags
and buckets for berries snacks, clothes and
towels, jaspers and agates.
We wade to small lands deeper
water and feel more timid
swimming under the bridge and
green hills to northern Oregon.
We chase waves of ships carrying
Toyotas, up the river, up Columbia.
Nicole Taylor lives in Eugene, Oregon and currently has no MFA's. She is an artist, a hiker, a poetry note taker, a sketcher, a volunteer and a dancer, formerly in Salem's DanceAbility. Her poems has been accepted in Boneshaker: A Bicycling Almanac, Clackamas Literary Review; Red Booth Review, West Wind Review and others. You can read more of her poetry at a collection of Oregon poets with written and audio poetry available online through Lewis & Clark College in Portland.
Poem by Wilda Morris
At the Gates of the Mountains
If I could sit for hours
like the osprey on her nest
what would I read
in Missouri River ripples,
in petroglyphs carved
by wind and rain
on rock and cliff?
What would I discern
in whispering feathers
riding a breeze
to the water’s edge?
Would I learn paths
of mule deer into crags
and caves, the meaning
of the magpie’s song?
For how long must I be still
to understand the awful ecstasy
of fish grasped by talons,
ready to die, destined to become part
of something new?
Wilda Morris, Workshop Chair for Poets & Patrons of Chicago, and a past president of the Illinois State Poetry Society, is widely published in print and on the Internet and has won numerous awards for her poetry, including two Pushcart nominations. Her book, Szechwan Shrimp and Fortune Cookies: Poems from a Chinese Restaurant, was published by RWG Press. Wilda Morris's Poetry Challenge at provides a poetry contest for other poets each month. In addition to poetry, she writes an occasional nature blog for the Bolingbrook Patch, an on-line newspaper.
Poem by James Dot
FOLLOWING THE MAP
Concentric rings splotched green,
blue lines running in between,
flat ink, white sheet beneath
tacked to ply board.
It speaks of ridges, creeks,
meadow, forest, springs.
It speaks, gives name, height, direction
and nothing’s said
of the sky that burns tonight: pink-orange.
The plywood’s swirled grain:
a mass of hills tangled in a maze-like drainage;
no trail, no creek connecting...
the stillness of stone, quiet as air bent in map folds.
Crow caw, flower of lupine, the rot beneath oak leaves,
two warblings washed in a high pine breeze.
I walk mapless, moving by memory.
Swim in a cow tank, dry in the sun,
a bear track in mud, bear scat fresh on the trail,
walk on, walk on into sundown on a high point.
A wind approaches, changing voices as it nears.
The west’s a darkening bloody glow.
I move down seeking level ground
and a tree to sleep against;
cross a creek and pass through
a cool stream of descending air.
Before first light:
mourning doves crying,
a freshly risen quarter moon.
Later, light filters through needles,
reflects in dew on leaf tips of young grass.
I watch water striders stroke against current.
The place I arrive at is on no map, evades all but memory.
In that place there is sun and water moving.
James Dott lives in Astoria, Oregon overlooking the Columbia River. He has taught elementary school in Oregon and overseas. Jim is a local community radio programmer. His work has appeared in hubbub, Pacific Fishing, Squid, Rain, Stringtown, and Fireweed.