TURTLE ISLAND QUARTERLY 7
Katharyn Howd Machan (3 poems), Kate Gaskin (1 poem),
Jared Smith (1 poem), Annie Stenzel (1 poem)
3 poems by Katharyn Howd Machan
We reach down, find it cold.
Hard to our fingers, twin to our bones.
Solstice and the light full-swallowed,
night against fire, high moon.
In a room of gentle circle
women come together for deep
story, prayer, the dark green poems
that warn away the frost
from Fox’s bones. She will steal
the silver starlight, she will swallow
snow’s sweet stones, turn them
into all the shadowed castles
mounds and mounds of all we’ve dreamed
have touched, have turned, have known.
the fur of the dead raccoon
Fox tried to help but could not help
in December’s dark and hardest clench
when the creature shivered and growled and bared
sharp teeth against the longest night
that time made her cold ending:
what to do with a corpse the snow
has left to light in swift melting?
She’s beautiful, the dead raccoon,
and Fox would like to take her home,
quiet mask a prophet’s challenge,
full striped tail a proclamation
that what our gods dare offer us
cannot defeat our need to be
wild and rough with small sure eyes
that gaze beyond where body dies.
after the painting “Ghost Story” by James Rosin
HER SMALL FEET, HER RED FUR
Fox knows she’s made of sudden stories:
noon blackening so dark it laughs,
skulls on an empty highway.
Hope is a scarlet ribbon lengthening
along the tongue of love:
how many heads does it take to know
a life suffers, then disappears?
But here she is, our Fox, alert
to the way deep spirits dance:
skin left behind, but bones alert
to what no digger says aloud
of how sure hands on a shovel know
about the way soul’s breath begins
again when ghosts rise, grinning.
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, Early Ripening: American Women’s Poetry Now, Literature, Sound and Sense, Writing Poems; and in 32 collections, most recently the chapbooks H (winner of the 2013 Gribble Press competition) and Wild Grapes: Poems of Fox (Finishing Line Press, 2014, first runner-up in their competition). The former director of the national Feminist Women’s Writing Workshops, Inc., in 2012 she edited Adrienne Rich: A Tribute Anthology (Split Oak Press).
Poem by Kate Gaskin
Remember the summer
we watched the woodpecker
drill his home into the longleaf
pine? All day his redheaded
chicks popped in and out
like downy whack-a-moles
interrogating the sun.
In those days I was part
fish, amphibious, sliding
back to the memory of my
body before my legs split
in two. Brim flitted against
them like pale birds darting
between trees. Across the shore,
water snakes quickened
a bed of floating pine needles.
Clouds of gnats shimmered
with a kind of frantic atomic
symmetry. Even anarchy
conforms to order eventually.
I never saw the birds leave.
When I was underwater
I was nothing. I was just a pair
of lungs begging for air.
Kate Gaskin has poems published in Cicada and the Alabama Literary Review. New poems are forthcoming in Cherry Tree and Tar River Poetry, and an essay forthcoming in the Examined Life Journal. She lives in the panhandle of Florida with her husband and toddler.
Poem by Jared Smith
The City Within The City
is within the darkest brick alleyways
at the far end, over the cobblestones
behind the greyest most modest wall
where when the doors open chandeliers
(cut glass from the hard hands of Tiffany)
shaken by Brahms and Mozart notes,
where shadowed men speak in whispers
slurring their words in aged whiskey or
rolling their vowels in brandy snifters
come together in every city nameless.
It is a place where Roman Cardinals
take off their shoes, turn water into wine
and pass bread among poor fishermen,
a place where Rothschild’s sew buttons
onto the very fabric of industrial society,
knowing what seam clothes the factories,
what clothes the university professors,
and where the owners of the deepest mines
crush the land itself into the finest jewels.
It is a place linked by placelessness,
stretching across one continent to another
identified most by the silence of gravitas,
the number of communication lines run in,
the generations that have grown in-bred
that own the media that no one writes of,
that is the heartbeat that fills our lives.
Found almost always where least expected
it wears the dappled camouflage of soldiers
who have enlisted on the wings of angels,
and its music, its heady perfumes, baubles,
metaphysical incantations, whispered siren songs
are the darkest deepest richest fabric woven
in the city within the city within our home.
Jared Smith is the author of ten published volumes of poetry, including his Collected Poems: 1971-2011; two multimedia stage adaptations of his work, presented in New York and Chicago; and two CDs. His poems, essays, and literary commentary have appeared in hundreds of journals in this country and abroad, and he has appeared on both NPR and Pacifica networks. He has served on the Editorial Staff of several of the country's leading literary publications, including Screening Committee Member and then Board Member of The New York Quarterly, Contributing Columnist for Home Planet News, and three time Guest Poetry Editor for The Pedestal, as well as serving as the past Poetry Editor for the Colorado Mountain Club's Trail & Timberline Magazine. He as well remains a member of The Advisory Board of The New York Quarterly. He also served as host of several poetry venues in New York's Greenwich Village, President of the non-profit Poets & Patrons in Chicago, and is active in a number of local and regional literary and arts organizations. He is currently a contributing editor for Turtle Island Quarterly.
Poem by Annie Stenzel
Diorama, minus one dimension
Each habitat is set apart from its improbable neighbor
as though the miles that separate the outback, say,
from the tundra, are compressed within the walls of each Lucite cage.
No fear that any trace of the wirewood trees and wattle,
the emu and bustard in the foreground, pack of dingoes
hunched by the carcass of a kangaroo to the rear
will creep next door to disturb the sere landscape
where a snowy owl nests near tufted saxifrage, indifferent
to the caribou but wary of a fox on the horizon.
So the breadth and depth are there, but what about time?
In the next diorama down, that man in the tule boat with a wealth
of fish at his feet won’t ever reach the village where the hearth waits ready,
and half-clad children play by a flickering flame.
That’s the bad news. The good news is, as you walk through the silent
hall, Vesuvius will never overtake the frantic mother
who races away from Pompeii with an infant clutched in her arms.
Annie Stenzel‘s poems have most recently appeared in the print journals Catamaran Literary Reader, Quiddity, and Ambit; in anthologies titled Patient Poets and Ten Years of Medicine and the Arts; and in the online journal Unsplendid. She has work forthcoming in Lunch Ticket and Right Hand Pointing. Her work has twice been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She is also a letterpress printer, never happier than when her hands are covered in ink. She works at a mid-sized law firm in San Francisco but lives across the Bay.