Wave Goodbye, Waves

under the royal star

she raked her fingers through earth

bone on bone,

calm as the lake was calm

so that no one could speak it,


who built this basalt cliff?

this Precambrian universe at the verge

of the north,

where you can smell the world

like a city stench

or place polluted

and to go back seems




she picked up two pieces of

igneous art, and tossed them

into the water of two hundred rivers

two thousand streams

she was old;

gray hair

and decades here

someone put their hand on her


told her, “don’t be sad anymore,”

but the sadness would stay,

and the falcon flew

splitting a sunrise into

mirror equators

of fire,

marooning her soul,

a little.


could she be different this time

how it would affect her in ways

that grounded her, held her

head towards the sky, where

dark spires only scraped

a brittle ionosphere,

pavement whispered threats

and billboards said the opposite

of what they meant

and everyone knew enough people

that one could be replaced

like a tire, or upholstery


no human could replace that,

she fathomed, and in that sense alone

staring at the void of sea


timelessness became tangible

apparent, bald as the cliff face

braided like cedar bark

she was among it now

nothing could replace

the sorrow


Star Harvest

harvest the stars

to sugar bush moon songs


at the verge of no one knows

teach the child

say old things to her

to him too

carry on like

white pine brother

coyote sister

pretend into the world

a peace again,

wildness, stout

chaos. chronicle

follies, where victory

may shine over

tragedy, but

let tragedy ascend


in child eyes

imagine into the world

a heart of possibility,

to hear like a drum

in the absence of

wild songs

And Then At Last, She Was Pure White

I knew this girl. From down the road. She was very bright, and she had a laugh like a hyena, and the sound of it would rise through the old oaks at the park at the center of town and send birds exploding into the sky. Blotting the heavens. As if every time she laughed a child released its small balloons from its red and pudgy knuckles. Watched them disappear into the unknown parts.

I watched her go out into the world and she had brightness all over. I tried to tell her, “no one wants to see people bright anymore out there. Must you go?”

She refused. She said she was brimstone. Wrath was all she knew. Not bright.

“Wrath?” I said. “Is that what we’ll call it now?”

Girls can be so cruel. She was pretty enough for them all to hate her. And part of the issue was that she loved men. She saw good in them. She liked the girls that hated her. Boys made her into a monument to something I wouldn’t describe to her but I understood. I told her, “don’t go preaching love. They’ll crucify you.”

“Nihilist,” she accused.

“Realist,” I corrected.

Soon she could see the beasts too, though. At first the sensation was fleeting, she told me, it made little sense. Just flashes of some other world in their faces. Some other alien race transposed over this.

“Like that movie,” she said. “With the glasses.”

“Get out now,” I told her. “Retreat to the hills.”

“But what is there?”


“And nothing else?”

“Perhaps in truth you may find everything.”

“But won’t they crucify me for that too? For truth?”

“Who is they? There is no they in the hills.”

“You’re not being realistic at all.”

“Your brain is beautiful like a forest after a storm. Things are broken but others make homes in the blowdowns. The rain can’t hurt you, the wind only strips away the dead skin. Scrubs you bare. Virginity is a soul thing, sex has nothing to do with it. It’s society that fucks you.”

“They say that sex is everything.”

“I thought that was truth. Truth is everything.”

“You said that, yes.”

But she never went to the hills. I didn’t expect her to, no one does. And soon they were everywhere. Cretin things, creatures that fed on obliteration. On raw quivering blood pools. She told me once she felt like they were sucking out her her-ness. That they were slowly taking every rock that made her solid. Removing her foundation. And they said it was in the name of Transformation.

“It’s called brainwashing,” I said.

“But they said that what I was was brainwashed. That I’ve already been brainwashed, and they’re fixing me now.”

“Can you wash something that has already been clean? When you started you were clean. Maybe you’re dirty now, but you’re the dirty that you know. They’re grooming you. Taking away the grime that makes you clean in your own eyes. And trust me, when they have finished cleaning you, you will be dirtier than you’ve ever felt and you will not know yourself again.”

“How do you know? About me?”

“It’s the same with everyone. I know these vultures. Come back to the hills. To the dirt that is caked under your fingernails.”

“I’m strong, I can bear it.”

“The world itself can’t bear it.”

She wrote me a letter the other day. It was a piece of herself. A piece of porcelain. It was polished white, as pure and snow-white as anything ever was. In the right light it looked Oleander. There was no return address, just this chunk of her that had no name and no identity. But it was pure. I put it on my shelf and drew all over it. I drew stick figures of the things that she used to be. Her family doesn’t recognize her. But they don’t recognize themselves either.

Yesterday I woke up and the moon was rising with the sun. Everything had a holographic glare. I saw that there were cords attached to the heavens and that we had conscripted upon the seas the internet of things. People were in the bays hoisting towers of shimmering electricity. Skyscrapers of lightning. They were certain it would end our trouble. Where is the trouble? I asked my neighbor. Where is it? My neighbor said, All over the world. Are you blind? I said, Yes, that must be it. I am blind. Thanking you for pointing that out.


copyright Taiga Quarto 2017

featured image by Emma Katka. copyright Emma Katka and Taiga Quarto 2017

check out Emma’s work at https://www.instagram.com/emmakatka/


Ghosts of Gull Lake

Protect your spirit, for you are in the place where spirits get eaten.

-John Trudell


Went driving north

north of Pillager,

old lands of Hole-in-the-Day

around the bluffs

of Old Gull Lake.

truth is,


I am a white man.


out a dandruff windshield

skeins of sun

there is the land of red clay

orange clay

iron in the blood


ghosts eke through FM stereo.

they pull the steering wheel.


under white pines I stop the car

they were saplings when

East Dakota people

on the move,

buried their dead.


or when the East Dakota and

The Chippewa and

The Winnebago

transfigured into wolves

followed the sun to survive

westward, where begins

the bloody Mississippi.


from the red clay

to the white earth


then we almost killed all the wolves, too.


total silence, for just a moment,

as the forest eclipses the beach

to tease out the memories

draw out the ghosts

for precious little moments

feeble as sheets of mica.


abruptly the lakeshore is revealed

and of course


I am a white man:


great whites washed ashore

giants squids of industry

blubbery and viscid where they

belch oil on the beach

leave rainbows on the wakes

comes out their pores

satellite security systems

golf courses tailor-fit to fat asses

tailor-fit to democracy, the Imposition,

genocide of a thousand colors

ancestor portals and caribou;

passing mansions on sacred hills

where manitou woke yawning to

machine amoeba, gaping mouths

paralyzed myths where they lay


resorts crop up, shoot roots through

tombs to kings;

history is as dead as the bison

as gone as the white-skinned First People

to the north-


even though they too had blue eyes


And so it is known

that what these resort homes

ranches and cabins

four story symphonies of death

spread over seventeen acres of rape

with water slides and daycares

pontoons and Potlatch

what they want to kill is not a pigment

they would like to kill something living

kill the Manitou

they would like to kill the Chippewa

they would like to kill the Dakota


I am white man on a drive

my name is not known to the lake

but ghosts tell me stories

of the white man’s undoing

Manchurian Pageantry


Where the stoicism met mercurial wings,

And tragic circumference of eventuality,

The battered redeemer was calling into pits.

halo of red light

Candles of tallow

Hung on walls of many hopeful iris,

Like great maps of humanity’s color

Illuminated of the boar.

Below the glow the recluse

As alone in this

World, as is the world alone

Among innumerable stars and

Scorched eternal things,

Of which finite subjects populate

The far-flung shores,

Cells that die,

Bones that break.

So swaddle about you your coat of many

Colors, and

empty your ashtray of

Mortal bread.

Recognize the stillness at the center

Of every beast, man, or lady lurks

Manchurian pageantry, so be on your toes

And say nothing quickly.



North Shore, by Annie Johnson

watercolor. copyright Annie Johnson and TaigaQuarto, 2017


Primarily working with watercolor, Annie Johnson has meticulously developed a keen eye for the textures of her favorite medium, and utilizes the almost subliminal effects of those textures and shadows in her works. She often begins with a heavy color wash, and then “carves” until the image is revealed. Powerful depth, texture, and revelation combine in Johnson’s paintings to create a style as unique as the Minnesota landscapes she draws her inspiration from.