TURTLE ISLAND QUARTERLY 7

Winter/2015

 

Chapter 3

 

Katharyn Howd Machan (3 poems), Kate Gaskin (1 poem),

Jared Smith (1 poem), Annie Stenzel (1 poem)

3 poems by Katharyn Howd Machan

 

 

 

 

             for Suzanne

 

                       EARTH

 

 

                        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.

 

 

 

 

 

                        PALE

 

 

                        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

 

 

 

Kingdom

 

 

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.

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