TURTLE ISLAND QUARTERLY 4
Gary Lark (3 poems), Richard King Perkins II (3 poems),
Carol Hamilton (1 poem), and John Grey (1 poem)
THREE POEMS BY GARY LARK
They lived up the rivers on patches of bottom land
and side hills growing gardens, eating venison.
Young men could start working in the woods at sixteen
earning a man’s wages, hunt the clear cuts
and fish on streams where cougar and bear
were the only competitors.
The cut pushed further into the hills.
Log trucks replaced little rail spurs
hauling some of the most beautiful wood
the world ever produced to the mills.
But there were places up the shaded river reaches
where the stillness that wasn’t still
and the silence that wasn’t silent
crept into the listener and wrung his mind
like Monday wash. In that place of no human sound
and primeval wonder it was like standing
on God’s front porch, seeing a balance
and meaning of things that couldn’t be spoken—
the murmur and crash of a small river
getting bigger as it slips and carves
through stands of virgin fir,
nursed and coached by alder and maple
along its banks, folds of land
untroubled but by deer hooves
and martin claws, all strewn and buckled
by plate tectonics and ice-age maneuvers,
seeds and sea bringing forth the day.
The listener would know that he was blessed
by something beyond his knowing.
Sometimes he had an axe in his hand,
sometimes a fishing pole or rifle, but he knew
he needed forgiveness with every step.
Everyone along the bay knew Mike’s truck,
the old blue Chevy with the drab aluminum camper shell,
but what was distinctive was the splendid canoe on top.
He had built it in a friend’s garage twelve years ago
replacing one he build forty years ago.
The cedar strip marvel took two years to build,
every detail perfect.
Mike was somewhere between seventy and a hundred,
five foot seven with his boots on, with the face
of a wizened child that had been put in a vice.
Growing up on the bay he had swam
in the sewer runoff slough water,
gathered crab and clams by traversing the currents
on a slab of bark, learned every nook and creek
along the miles of shoreline.
He lived half the time out of his truck
and the other half where ever there was a friend
and shelter. He kept a smoke house going
at one of those places, filled, depending on the season,
with salmon, steelhead or lingcod.
He delivered to his regular customers
and they were grateful. He had never paid taxes,
not out of ideology, just didn’t exist in that world.
One of the things he enjoyed most was pulling alongside
a multi-thousand dollar boat, rigged out with the best gear,
with two large Chinook laying in the bottom of his canoe
and ask about the fishing.
His favorite though, was navigating up a small stream
with the incoming tide when the fall Chinook were running—
at one with the water, the fish and the season,
the tall salt-marsh grass waving and leaning with the wind,
the Sitka spruce holding the world together
and the fish rising in circles all around him.
There were moments when I was fearless
moving down an unseen channel,
at home in the nameless water
that carried me.
Forgive me for not being able to say
where I was going. I didn’t know.
The stars reflected in dark pools
and I had to wade among them.
Gary Lark’s most recent book, Without a Map, was published in 2013 at Wellstone Press.
A previous book, Getting By, won the Holland Prize from Logan House Press, 2009.
His chapbooks include: Men at the Gates, Tasting the River in the Salmon’s Flesh and Eels and Fishes.
Poems from Getting By were featured on The Writer’s Almanac with Garrison Keillor.
His work has appeared in Beloit Poetry Journal, Poet Lore, The Sun, and North American Review.
Lark has been a librarian, carpenter, janitor, salesman and hospital aide.
THREE POEMS BY RICHARD KING PERKINS II
When Humans Walked the Earth
The earth at sunset can be greyish-blue.
This is no indication of portent
because certain misidentifications will always be made.
I reject any notion of synchronicity or karma.
Standing still beneath an abandoned viaduct,
I breathe out with air previously reserved for inspiration.
A petrified sea is captured by black radiance
on the horizon, digested by smoky awnings of sky.
My home, the lone speck of relief, a subtle ascension.
Not everything is sinister and bleak.
The great migration of beasts returning to fallen cities;
adapting to the ruined soul-orphanages of man.
A damp char is the planet’s new petrichor and I am
its lone denizen. Such a human quirk— for the last person
standing to inevitably see themself as first.
Pearl Skies Lying
Above the irregular valleys of Pennsylvania
swinging out of this morning’s mist,
the deepest yellow sun
can’t remember its ancient colors
before planets and all the rest
started following it around like needy pets
begging the elements of life.
Character actor in a cosmic picture—
the sun can’t recall its earliest bit parts
in white and blue,
portraying anger, sadness, resignation;
waiting for its breakthrough role—
to illume what I perceive at this moment;
your sensual currents
and the pearl skies lying below.
Stepping inside myself
even for a long instant
feels like being sewn into clothing
that used to be mine—
a forgotten comfort,
the closeness of familiar agreement.
I’ve dug through millions of years
of sediment to be here right now—
absorbing a momentary fireshower
that rises from my feet
like an infusion of gentle flame.
My soul spreads into clouds,
moon-smoothed like whitest-grey talc
of the finest ash—
an addition of infinite mass.
The sky stiches shut,
intentionally forgetting me,
leaving twigs to march
like naked armies
into a permanent syncopation—
into a color which skin cannot attain.
Richard King Perkins II is a state-sponsored advocate for residents in long-term care facilities.
He is a three-time Pushcart nominee and has had work appear in hundreds of publications
including Poetry Salzburg Review, Bluestem, Sheepshead Review, Sierra Nevada Review, The
William and Mary Review, Two Thirds North and The Red Cedar Review. Poems are forthcoming
in Broad River Review,Emrys Journal, December Magazine and The Louisiana Review.
POEM BY CAROL HAMILTON
Decisions With Consequences
Noah missed his chance
to save us from so much misery.
He could have left behind this furious buzz,
this mosquito-shrill voice ... just one pair "forgotten."
Even in Alaskan valleys, swarms torture bare skin.
Near the Mt. of the Holy Cross we climbed
across one snowfield saddle, escaped
those torturous clouds, found a paradisiacal valley
where we nursed our pebbled flesh afire with itch
and muttered our curses at the ark's thoroughness.
Must we, like Hester with her scarlet letter,
cooperate with our own suffering?
Life seems to say beyond some long-ago turning point,
there is no escape from what we have done.
Carol Hamilton has upcoming and recent publications in LOUISIANA REVIEW, BLUE UNICORN, CAVEAT LECTOR, ATLANTA REVIEW, NEW DELTA REVIEW, LASCAUX REVIEW, NARROW FELLOW, BLUESTEM, SOW'S EAR POETRY, TAR RIVER REVIEW, FLINT HILLS REVIEW, MAIN STREET RAG, GREY SPARROW JOURNAL, TRIBECA POETRY REVIEW, THE AUROREAN, SAN PEDRO RIVER REVIEW, LISTENING EYE and others. She has published 16 books: children's novels, legends and poetry, most recently, MASTER OF THEATER: PETER THE GREAT and LEXICOGRAPHY. She is a former Poet Laureate of Oklahoma.
POEM BY JOHN GREY
PIANO TUNER IN THE WOODS
Who makes these minute adjustments
to the rustle of the leaves?
Who aligns the intervals of
brush shake, wildflower flutter,
the accordion wheeze of wind?
Her fingers reach out for
red-toothed blush of sumac.
They can pluck the sticky berries
but cannot choose their pitch.
Kingbird, rapid, agitated kit-kit-kittery;
phoebe's hoarse freebee;
the throaty chew-chew of the purple marten;
they come clear tempered,
no intervention piques their frequencies.
Mourning cloak butterfly tests the silence
with a quiver of wing.
Gray squirrel scurries up a tree
in a series of claw on bark.
One oak has fallen on another.
They sough one long stretched fifth.
does a street cleaner in the forest
see only scattered leaves on trails?
is a miner's eye seduced merely
by glitter in the rocks?
She listens for false beats,
flaws in the temperament region...
A lover would adore
the pinnately-lobed bull thistle.
An engineer would enquire
into its mechanics.
Her sensitivity is for
the intervallic, the tonal,
the subtle compromise in intonation.
Despite her gifts,
there is no need for her...
unless unnecessary is a gift.
John Grey is an Australian born poet. Recently published in Slant, Stoneboat and US1 Worksheets with work upcoming in Bryant Literary Magazine, Natural Bridge, Southern California Review and Soundings East.