Turtle blood is memory. Memory that would perhaps remain forgotten and undisturbed beneath dust and years. The name of the poetry collection, “What Turtle Blood Tastes Like” is taken from a poem that began in 2006 at the Kachemak Bay Writers’ Conference in a workshop taught by Stan Sanvel Rubin. The workshop focused on the workings of time in poetry…Stan said,”you write a poem in one time and then it is taken by the reader and interpreted in another time, a later time, or read aloud with different pacing, measure, a musical time” and “Time as a medium in which poetry exists…floating in time”. We read examples of poems in which time was juxtaposed and toyed with. One that sticks with me is William Carlos Williams‘ “This is just to say”:

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
saving
for breakfast.

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold.

And from this time bounding, confessional poem came memories rushing like blood from a deep childhood wound and the following images which I jotted down, willow swamp, purple blood, shell drum, raising and dropping the rock, the sick wet crack of mossy shell. I had heard Sherwin Bitsui read a poem the day before in which there was a line that asked, “what does turtle blood taste like”, which haunted me into the following day and helped coax my own memories from the deep recesses. So here’s a preview of the first two stanzas, a few revisions later…

What Turtle Blood Tastes Like

They believed no one could see
them beneath the willow temple,
down by the algae bloom swamp.

They prayed if they all drank
of that blood and swamp water,
they might keep the darkness submerged…

___