PoetryIssue 14 | February 2012

Two poems by Ken Turner

Crossing the Border Near Lahore

It’s the absence of sound that startles.
Punjabi blackbirds chatter like jackals
but even they fall silent at this gap,
the only way to get there from here
unless by air, like the phantoms
that flicker on a million TV screens
or the missiles scudding
through thin Kashmiri clouds.

The birds must know
the history of this place, red
weddings and henna, the common
fields of mustard and wheat, how lines
penciled on drawing-room maps
surgically severed
what once was shared earth.
How rivers clogged, the villages darkened with smoke
as ghost trains groaned through the border
leaking their loads on the rails.

Years on, decades, and still a shudder:
our palates dry as this earth,
our battered luggage disarmed. Other lines
come to mind, other passages—Berlin,
Mason-Dixon, the bright beaches
of Haifa—places once rinsed
in animal sweat, where fear
swelled like a corpse in the sun.

The roads to this place ran hot that summer.
The customs hall is cool and empty now
in a time of no traffic. It smells
of disinfectant. We exit under scrutiny,
crows dark as bruises huddled in the trees.

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About the author

Ken Turner has been working, writing, and running overseas for eighteen years. He has taught in Congo, Ivory Coast, Pakistan, Venezuela, and currently, China. Memorable runs include ones along the Nile in Cairo, through a market in Luang Prabang, and away from a mob of protesters in Abidjan. You can find his poetry in Atlanta Review, Fine Madness, Southern Poetry Review, and several anthologies.

Read our current issue:

Poetry

Two poems by Anne Babson
Vignette, Townhouse, 9 a.m. by Troy Cunio
Night Becomes Day Over the West by Megan Foley
Yukon River Aurora by D. B. Goman
Two Poems by David Havird
Cretan Love Letter by Emily Linstrom
Holland by Rick Mullin
Fear in Kenya by Kristina Pfleegor
The Lounge Lizard by Ed Shacklee
Two Poems by Sarah J. Sloat
Night Flight by Vicki Stannard
Koinonia Farms by Alina Stefanescu
Thessaloniki, Four a.m. by Anastasia Vassos
Imaginary Oceans by Jason Warren
Two Poems by F. J. Williams

Postcard prose

It’s Salty by Kelly Hill

Travel notes

Anchorage in the Great Land by Karen Benning
The Value of Small Money by Megan Hallinan
Screensaver by Sandra Larson
Thirty Cents by Tommy McAree
Gokarna by Kate McCahill
Going Places by Rachel Miller-Howard
Susanville CA: Notes From The Road by Susan Volchok