TURTLE ISLAND QUARTERLY 4
Martin Willitts Jr. (2 poems), Rose Mary Boehm (2 poems),
Jeanine Stevens (1 poem), and Brian Michael Barbeito (Essay)
TWO POEMS BY MARTIN WILLITTS JR.
What I Want
I want the kind of morning that lasts
well beyond the everlasting glimmers
and brushes against your body like strung beads
used as a curtain in the entrance to a heart.
These beads should clatter
sounding ever so very much like sleet on hard surfaces.
I want the kind of preserved peace my father felt
after working so hard, seemingly getting nowhere,
as he went deep into the cave of silence
like a hermit crab goes into a larger shell.
His inward spiral would find the edges
towards a center, where nothing could disturb,
a quiet that contemplates. This peace
would fill the stretched-out face of the morning.
I want the diamond-faceted eyes of a bee
seeing everything all at once, everywhere.
I do not want to miss seeing anything.
These eyes would not blink or flinch
from horror, but would see it for itself —
the disturbance of peace, the rendering of it,
the mute silence afterwards
when everyone realizes how bad it was.
This peace would be a different peace —
more of shock and shame. We would wonder
if reconciliation was possible,
hoping we drained ourselves enough
to be sensible about peace.
I want my eyes see the changing heart
in the sun as it knows peace and silence.
What I want is not unreasonable.
What I want is not impractical.
What I want is not unattainable.
What I want is what all people want —
the silence that is common and essential;
the silence that flourishes;
the silence that rolls loose as a pebble
under the feet of someone climbing towards peace.
I want the silence that will become surrogate stories
we can tell generations, proud of our accomplishment,
stories filling a basket with sunbeams.
Sometimes, things just open up.
Like the sun emerging from a conch shell,
or mountain growing out of your palm
because your breath is the stillness of cranes.
When you speak, bees sting the wicked
with forgiveness, or beads like a rosary
click on your eyes silently when you search
for the peace our father’s never found
while grinding their teeth at the moon.
You asked me what I would want
for my grandchildren. What came to me
was thunder, and silence between
when lightning strikes. How you can count it
to figure out how close it is. How the flash
lasts inside your eyes, even when you close them.
How when lightning stitches across the sky
to ground it is like an old trundle sewing machine
that does not have a back-stitch. How the rain
has different ways of falling and different sounds,
and how it dictates the length of the rainfall.
How my father would walk in rain to feel it
against his face like sandpaper
to know what God wanted from him.
How his pacing was slow regardless of the rain.
Like the rain could not salve whatever was within him,
nor the silence was enough, nor how drenched
his eyes flash-flooded
until he could barely see where he was going
and could care less when he would come back.
How the bees never stung him.
How stitched we are together.
How nothing is the same when you find the sublime.
This Hard Winter
This hard winter, the horse’s water bucket froze.
I had to chip the ice so it would have something
I suppose the horses heard me nearing,
stomping in waist-high snow. It is hard to move
this way. It slows things to almost a stand-still.
It was like the time the tractor was weighed down
in mud, no traction could move it,
like waking a person from a deep sleep.
It was ground deep, like neuropathy,
needing a bigger tractor to pull it,
I suppose my eyes were burnt-out
from blinding reflected snow-light.
I suppose I looked like oblivion.
I was soundless having heard more snow
was heading this way, predicted
to last all week, endless unwanted presents.
I had already forgotten the blue jay
as it settled on a branch before leaving
declaring how wonderful he was, singing.
When I opened the barn door, I had an ice pick.
I looked definitely stranger.
The woods were blotted out by snow behind me.
If you saw the violence when I used the pick,
light swings arcs, smoke from my nostrils,
you’d wonder if there was any calm left in the world.
You’d wonder if violence hangs on wooden clothespins.
You’d think all that held sanity together could fall apart,
like a hemlock branch holding too much weight.
Martin Willitts Jr has 6 full-length collections including national eco-poetry contest winner "Searching for What Is Not There" (Hiraeth Press, 2013) and over 20 chapbooks including contest winner "William Blake, Not Blessed Angel But Restless Man" (Red Ochre Press, 2014). His poems appeared in Turtle Island Quarterly, Stone Canoe, Blue Fifth, Comstock Review, Bitter Oleander, Big River Poetry Review, Poppy Road Review, and others. He has recently been awarded the Dylan Thomas Poetry Award. He recently won the Dylan Thomas International Poetry Award for the 100th centennial, and went to read his poem in Swansea, Wales, the birth place of Dylan Thomas.
TWO POEMS BY ROSE MARY BOEHM
At the Seaside in Peru
Houses made from basket weave lean
into the dunes of the desert only a few meters
from the salty dance of the Pacific,
shivering in the stiff breeze.
Sand mixed with plastic and excrement,
small children crawl atop the landfill
with burlap sacks, the odd pig snuffles
between shards of glass and pieces of iron.
A half-dead plant wrenched from the root,
reminder of what once was, unsalvageable.
Here I am, holding a small, brown hand,
sticky and bruised. Her large dark eyes
are those of a cornered deer.
Her mother turns to leave.
Ship with sails cut from red-poppy, fat
with the breeze. Those who wait.
The bloated bodies blue below. Chimneys
throw out shabby sheets, marigolds flutter
on the wings of mariposas while the white
whale sings its cante jondo. Grass trumpets
and lily bells, the source flows from
red leaves, cool Narcissus bends
over the still, green waters, the eyes
of roses take us to the edge of the world.
A German-born UK national, Rose Mary Boehm lives and works in Lima, Peru. Author of two novels and a poetry collection (TANGENTS), her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in US poetry reviews. Toe Good Poetry, Poetry Breakfast, Burning Word, Muddy River Review, Pale Horse Review, Pirene’s Fountain, Other Rooms, Requiem Magazine, Full of Crow, Poetry Quarterly, Punchnel’s, Avatar, Verse Wisconsin, Naugatuck River Review, Boston Literary, Red River Review, Ann Arbor, Main Street Rag, Misfit Magazine and others.
POEM BY JEANINE STEVENS
A weed of low growth,
the channeled wrack
first of sea plants to colonize the shore.
Three-fourths of its life on land,
yet, a true seaweed, orange and brown,
symbol of the ocean’s threshold.
Earth’s most ancient plant,
the Greek name for dusky, thrives
in dim and shadowed places.
This evolutionary success story,
accomplishes rare invasions of sunny tropics
under the protective cover of deep water.
On the flood tide, starfish move up,
tumble on tiptoes
from these great meadows of the sea.
~after Rachel Carson, The Edge of the Sea. 1955
Jeanine Stevens studied poetry at UC Davis and has an MA in Anthropology.
Her work has appeared in South Dakota Review, Camas, Tule Review, Verse Wisconsion,
Stoneboat, Pearl and Ekphrasis. She has awards from the MacGuffin Poet Hunt,
Stockton Arts Commission and Mendocino Coast Writer's Conference. Raised in Indiana,
she now divides her time between Sacramento and Lake Tahoe.
NONFICTION BY BRIAN MICHAEL BARBEITO
DIRECTIONS (MCCOWAN AND FAULKNER, OR THIS RIDER AND HER DAEMON)
Where the two meet the one turns into the other. Both streets are real. The latter is the actual name of the street McCowan turns into as it shows a driver or walker a right angle, though for years I did not look at the street sign. I knew the directions in another way, that practical manner where someone is prone to say, Oh, I know how to get there by going there. Myriad forms of life jostle and vie for position in the springtime. Wild shrubs announce themselves and they have actual purple arms. Even in leftover puddles a water spider can find itself. The tree line as you walk down one of the paths is still damaged from a big storm, vexatious storm, storm pedestrians still speak of because there was nothing pedestrian about it. So much interesting dirt exchanged on the dirt paths. A lady was lost. She was elderly, had taken a fall trying to get back before the sheets really came down. It took hours to find where she had gone. Or, the police look with their yellow tape there, under the hawks and the pastoral sun, because a skull had been found. But as I went there that morning, it was something else that was seen. More nuanced than a storm or an injured and kindly aged soul. And it came and went quicker than a skull or search party or Johnny Law and his tape. It was something I saw that shall keep me seeing or seeking to see. A gift. A blossom. A vision that was not second sight or metaphysical but rather real. This happened amidst everything else. See, everything is always happening at once. If you slip away into the mosaic of everything one of two things will result. Craziness or Enlightenment. And maybe one is not so different than the other. In the meantime, I shall mention what I saw.
I was among the regular mix of folks that let their dogs go to run. There is a pond at the bottom of the path. There is some of the suburban set there. Yoga pants. Clean nails. Quiet docile breeds by their sides. A rougher group also, more honest and salt of the earth. Most of those smoke. They are easier to talk to. Less airs. Less affected. Neither is perfect as nobody is perfect. Even the tree line is not perfect, damaged from the storm, but still some coy cumulus go wander out beyond there. There are horse people also, and these are a prepossessing type if you ask me. She was one of those and a quick moment announced her, coming out from verdant thickets, but with a difference. She had a back straighter than the rest, as if her posture was half from physical health and half from a sort of psychic prowess.
I saw that this lady had something sticking out of her hair, in the back. I said to the one I was with, What is in her hair? There is something in her hair, and the horse also wears a decorative mask. And then I answered my own question as the horse and rider turned to the side. There are feathers in her hair. Black feathers. It looks like something out of a movie, but it is not a movie. Some lady had found a proud horse, black glistening by the afternoon star. Some lady had found her own self, her daemon, and either avoided the world or transcended it. No, she negotiated it with style. Only lip service or knee jerk rebellion was usually pronounced, if you could find a chance to pronounce it, against malls or television culture or societal mores that straight-jacketed most all. See, the urban and the rural are in an uneasy relationship as sprawl and heavy footed progress tries to overwhelm. Some of the ones city born like me and so many others, have reverence for green and wild and path. Yet, we don’t know it like a lover. We have had other lovers, and tasted other forms of dirt. These wide spaces and labyrinthine ravines, these loams that wait at the edges of fields and receive rains, - they know something and are something. What they know and what they are can’t be understood in a day or a week or with a cursory glance. They don’t lend themselves to the perfunctory. You have to do the work. This rider. This rider. This rider. I could see, though I am nobody to see, that she had done work. This one, with far looking brown eyes surveying the tree line, that nodded at something, that carried something about her, was an inspiration. Moxy. Verve. Somehow even nerve. Someone had skirted the kitsch and banality of Sunday drives and went through the valley and glen, the river tumbled stone and water, not as a tourist in their own life. It was as if the rider had married a path long ago and was pregnant with the progeny of guts instead of glamour. Soon after her horse drank some more, they both went off in the direction they had come from. They knew how to get there, wherever there was, by going there. And I stayed. I was left with the rest.
Brian Michael Barbeito is a Canadian writer. He is a two time Pushcart nominee with work that has appeared in various print and electronic publications. He is the author of the book Chalk Lines, [FOWLPOX PRESS, cover art by Virgil Kay (2013)].