A Journal of Contemporary Arts 





Frederick Turner



Russia is dead, our much-loved Russia is dead.
That ready smile, that quick turn of the shoulder
Will come no more, the ice will not melt in the river,
The tarantass broken, and Lara mourns for Navalny.

Grieve for Russia, friends of that ancient honor,
Grieve with Chekhov, scribe of civilization,
Grieve with Pierre Bezukov, who weeps on the battlefield,
Mourn, for pious Levin has laid down his scythe,
And the white nights are dark, the morning star will not rise.

Where is that chuckle, the bitter-sweet irony, where
Is Pushkin's panache, the old Moscow vesel'ye?
The poisoned prisoner dies in an arctic Gulag,
The colors fade in the halls of the Winter Palace ,
And gentle Zossima turns his sad face away.

God will not let it be, says saintly Sonia;
Sergius lays down his sainthood and curses the time,
The Russian spring is dead, the nightingales silent,
Zhivago will never find his way back to Varykino.

Mourn for Russia, the vodka has lost its sting,
Mourn, you nations, that witnessed the siege of Kursk,
Mourn for that courage, that would not yield to the tyrant,
Mourn for Navalny, your last and most gallant of sons.



"Where is everybody?"

The oldest ways to say things are the best,
Because the language deepens as it grows,
And some things need be said so all the rest
Might be transformed into an ancient rose.

And now it's clear. If there are Others there,
Then they'd be here. And so we are alone.
What does it mean? That this small world is where
All that's important ever has been grown.

Nature made us to see it, and to know it
And know that we were nature all along,
Seeking its nextness, like an eager poet
Finding the old rhyme for its newest song.

"We" are our bodies, and our bodies are
All living things upon the planet Earth.
We're served here by a patient yellow star
That shone upon the stable of our birth.

If we're the first and all and only, then
All our humility must be misplaced:
If we are worth so much, women and men,
And all our life-kin, must not go to waste.

How can we bear responsibility
For any meaning anything can bear?
If God's the universe's mind, then we
Are all and everything and everywhere.

We've seen and known the white-hot origin,
We've measured with our thought the limits of
The chora that the dance takes place within:
Our beastly ancestry taught us to love.

So God is just an infant, as are we,
And we are charged with Its inheritance:
Oh, love It, friends, and let It come to be
Something that's kindly, a Benevolence.


     April 8th, 2024

The unseen dragon eats the sun.
A shadow drowns the drowsing mind,
The self by Alzheimer's undone,
The nightmare of all humankind,

Paper reminders by the sink,
The winter's slow then sudden chill,
The inability to think,
The lost, lost footing of the will;

The last squeeze of the mother's hand,
The swift horizon-darkening,
The coming of the shadowland,
Where all the birds have ceased to sing:

All this we soon or late must know
As tokens of the kindling.
We are not things, but some bright flow;:
Promethean fire is not a thing.

If Kali swallows up the sun
She also gives him birth again.
By kindling is the world begun,
The green bud opening after rain,

Quick run of flame along the log;
The waked cat opening golden eyes,
The sudden clearing of the fog,
The mental spark of a surprise.

Our first awareness at the breast,
Our first smile when we knew we knew,
Were such a kindling, and the rest
Is doing what our fire can do.



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Woke is the place of no more dreams,
Woke is the ending of confusion,
Woke is what is, not that which seems,
Woke is the death of all illusion.

The dream of having is a lie,
For having is another's loss;
You live because the others die,
You're either bossed or are the boss.

The dream of love makes you a slave
To someone else's quest for power;
Hook up, consume each other, leave;
Wash off the odor in the shower.

The dream of history's a tale
Of one tribe's crushing of another;
If one succeeds, then one must fail--
Wake up to this, don't trust your brother.

Wake from the dream of family,
The birthing-place of all oppression,
The workshop of authority,
The cold molester's sick obsession.

The dream of justice is a laugh,
The horse-faced exercise of power,
A bonus for the legal staff,
Who charge the victim by the hour.

The dream of beauty is a myth,
A trick of clever advertising,
Made for controlling people with,
And stopping discontent from rising.

Creation and discovery
Are just despoilings of the earth;
There are no wonders left to see,
And nothing's worth more than it's worth.

The dream of God--now that's the worst,
And Jesus was the biggest loser:
The last are last, the first are first,
The martyr is the worst accuser.

Your father's wars, your mother's screams,
The other's slavery, made you;
Be woke, and cast away your dreams,
For there is nothing that is true.


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One sunlit day to come we'll see
A city wealthy, just and free
Where difference of he and she,
The virtues of the king and queen
And of the repertoires between,
Are honored, served, enjoyed, and seen.

There'll be no law to which one's tied;
Nothing enforced or codified;
One's glands a horse that one may ride,
Bound only by the ancient rein
That governs friendship, love, and pain,
And won't leave children in the rain.

But it may take the end of "gender,"
The weapon of the reprehender,
To bring about that coming splendor;
For nature and society,
Good servants, rule with cruelty--
But ridden well, make each one free.


There's a kind of poem that's an island
With a house, a jetty, and a beach.
One end rises to a little highland;
There are hills across the waters of the reach.

It need be no more than just an acre,
But it has a tiny sheltered cove;
Part of it is forest, that its maker
Vowed to keep untrodden as a sacred grove.

And the house is wooden, creaky, fragrant,
And the kitchen-garden's fresh and green,
There's a climbing rosebush with a vagrant
Spray of buds that frames an oceanic scene.

Underneath's a cavern you are using
As a cellar, keeping old wine cool,
Where a cleft, with fresh air softly oozing,
Tells of darker surgings and a hidden pool.

And there is a secret mechanism
Powered by the long tides of the sea
That preserves the past as in a prism,
So what was is also what will come to be.


No juice survives the natron of the mummy,
Papyrus poetry wraps groceries.
The puppet-maker has become the dummy,
The painted eye is that which never sees.

In burial rites of Africa and Asia
Embalmers knew they should hook out the brain.
The cost of information is erasure,
So that the royal face might live again.

Elide the living lines that you have written,
So that the dead ones, perfect, might remain?
Better the apple that was never bitten
Than knowledge bought with such amazing pain?



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            Hiking in Texas, June 18

So I ignore the heat advisory:
Texas and I still play this little game.
It's not the heat, it's the humidity
That gives our steam-bath its dishonored name:
It's not the heat, it's the humility.

The air's so wet it feels like lukewarm oil.
Why should things dry and cool when there's nowhere
For H2O to go, no way to boil?
Foot hauled by foot I sweat into that air,
And breathing seems like unproductive toil.

Why do this stupid thing at seventy-nine?
What does he prove, what means he by this sign?
Texas was made for fools who long to strive,
And only thus do fools know they're alive.


No juice survives the natron of the mummy,
Papyrus poetry wraps groceries.
The puppet-maker has become the dummy,
The painted eye is that which never sees.

In burial rites of Africa and Asia
Embalmers knew they should hook out the brain.
The cost of information is erasure,
So that the royal face might live again.

Elide the living lines that you have written,
So that the dead ones, perfect, might remain?
Better the apple that was never bitten
Than knowledge bought with such amazing pain?



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The tent-pole's cracked, and now the canvas shakes,
And wherewith shall I bind the wounded spar?
Surgical tape? Raw twine? The dig-site stakes
To splint and clamp the perpendicular?

This woven tent endures a deadly storm.
Supplies are running low: the wars nearby
Turn all our excavations into harm:
Whatever we discover breeds a lie.

There have been mornings here that swelled the heart,
Nights braided with the silent Milky Way,
Days rich with the investigators' art,
Before my team began to drift away;

My friend, asleep, should not perceive me so:
The storm is here for me to undergo.


A windpuff-bonnet of fáawn-fróth
Turns and twindles over the broth
O let them be left, wildness and wet

A sapphire zephyr out of the south sky
Has filled the creek and packed the bright brown shells
Of oakbud, mesquite, cedar. And the high
Sephiroth of the season calls its spells.

Sandro's blue lover bursts into the time,
A rough annunciation: Chloris speaks
Forth April's Flora like a wanton rhyme:
In pains of love the flowery cosmos shrieks.

My priest Saint Gerard, you knew the desire
That made the father father-forth the spring:
However cruel and violent the fire,
It cannot help but sing.


After three thousand pupils and those forty books,
It seems I'm given carte-blanche by the secret Boss.
I can't say I'm not grateful, but the new assignment
Carries no budget, sets no deadline, targetless.

I'm not the sort to get my kicks from helping friends.
I suck at it, I love them, but there is no joy.
I'm not possessive, I'm relieved to be ignored,
And what I do seems calculated to annoy.

I've said what I apparently came here to say.
Others have said it better; some no longer applies.
I never wanted for material before, but now
I never seem to catch the ball upon the rise.

So maybe my assignment's just that I should Be,
But for this task I am totally unprepared.
A poet is supposed to be quite good at it:
Quite frankly, Boss, I think I am a little scared.



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What in another age would not be found
One of the captain virtues of a man
Can in a time when all hell is unbound
Become a heroism, and a plan.

Like that comedian's, who leads his land
Against the madness of unbridled power,
Gioia's frank courtesy, not sharp, not bland,
Becomes truth's voice in this chaotic hour.

A brother poet, whose urbane sweet line
Contains a melancholy irony
(Whose kernel is a glory that's as fine
As that of some more noble century),

He holds intact that civil, mute accord,
Whose pen is still as mighty as the sword.




So like that child, who having missed the bus,
Gives up, and catches breath, and feels the sun
Warm on this autumn day, and seeing thus
That there is no reprieve, has just begun
To celebrate a little holiday,
So I now start to see another way.

I sometimes see amid the roaring welter
Of public talk and social media
A thought of mine borne in the helter-skelter,
Or warped, in some encyclopedia;
And bless it on its way, but don't mind much;
It had its chance, it got a little touch.

But it's all gone, it's all out of my hands,
I see the general rush of it, but don't much care;
I'm not a subject of its loud demands,
I'm more excited by this sunlit air,
These gold and crimson trees, this silver moon,
The open terrace of the afternoon.


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Frederick Turner EPO Poems Prior to 2023