Ian Khadan



Thirteen Ways a Turtle Plays the Turntable


The gods were cruel to give you those paws

but you have mastered crackle and hiss.

You have learned to martyr sound

with your hind legs

in a B-Boy pose.


This is your altar.

Orchestra at your claw-tips.

You are composing symphony.

Twist the music like your soft underbelly—

during digestion.


Rock slow Michelangelo.

This beat is for grandmas who get down

move the dance floor like your last hunting expedition—

for grass.


Trace the trim with the sharpened edge of your stubble-claw.

If ever there was,

this is turtle wax on decks.


You have descended from a long line of great turtles,

but you are destined to mix

like mulatto semen in a blender set on puree.


This is where you dance jabberwocky crazy.

Shake your carapace and plastron

to the steady rattle of vinyl.


DJ’s are envious of your shell.

How sound resonates from its hollows

acoustically flawless.

They know nothing of underwater breathing.


Note the dim red rotation,

how perfectly the theme song of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

spun on her hips


Your anatomy is needle, platter, and spindle.

You are more than push-button-play simple

More like beak to groove searching.


The turntable is not weapon.

It is not refuge from otters or crows or raccoons.

It is more solitude than your swamp.


The record spans your hundred and fifty years.

It is omnivore.

It is mating season lubricant,

and life.


When asked his favorite music,

Chuck Norris replied, “Turtle spin that shit”

causing instantaneous death to all present in the club.


You are the collection of myth,

and legend,

and Justin Timberlake,

and awesome, young turtle.


Easter Sunday

The wire is strung tight

between two posts

fastened at each end of the yard

covered by crushed seashells

like broken teeth and blood.

A distant crash in the kitchen

flushes her face of its color.

She keeps her gaze out the window,

notices the leisure drip of soap-water

off the corner of the young dress

folded over the clothesline.

There is a beehive humming

from the Mango tree just over the patter

of trench waters lining the fence below.

The recoil of the Atlantic tucking itself

neatly under the brace of the seawall,

far on the other side of the house,

cushions the screaming

of the neighbor’s children against her ear.

When she was in primary school

a boy whistled to her

from across the playground

he had a yellow smooth complexion

and a Portuguese smile

that he wore like jewelry.

He liked the sound of her name;

it was playful, and he’d never seen such big eyes.

He was a good boy.

The breeze brushing through her hair

and over her navel,

sweeps away the equator sun.

She savors its coconut scent.

It reminds her of the milk

her father bled from out their bone shells,

cracked open with the dull edge of his cutlass.

how he’d scrape the jelly

from their walls

and offer it in the palm of his hands.

He was a good man.

The low groan of floorboards announce

malicious footsteps

dragging through the next room.

There, the sound of glass against wood

staples her back

to the small metal framed bed.

She turns on her belly

to hide her widened eyes

and wipe the taste of salt from her lips.

The racket of all things free

beckon just beyond her prison walls

the croak of the fowls in their pen,

the bark of the dog at the fence,

the crick of the zinc outhouse rooftop

unhinging as it grazes against rusted nails.

Sweat collects

in the cove of her back

and welcomes the Kiskadees

flying by the window drawing shadows

on her blue blemished skin.

A draft of thin hot air,

stiff with rum,

bends through the open door.

She blankets her face with solemn;

turns her watergrave eyes,

recognizing this approaching ruin.

The warmth of Eucharist wine

still lining her stomach,

the bright box-kites tailing off in the sky,

the wire now slacking under the young dress.

How even it submits to the weight.

At Midday

The boy’s arms slowly unravel

from around the pipe

and his eyes explode

at the fierce crack of iron and concrete.

The slow metallic roll

calms his breathing and strains the adrenaline

from his chest.

The phantom barking of a dog still ringing

against the silence now surrounding him.

In one heave he pulls himself upright

from the hammock hanging between a tree branch

and the bottom-house.

There is a garden

just at the concrete’s edge

where most of the butterflies are

still bristled in their glass jars.

The hollow below the water-well just beyond that

is almost full to the brim;

there, his shirt is sprawled out over the edge.

His eyes wrench back to the iron pipe

now tucked neatly at the side of the stairs,

its darkened edge as unsettling as the still glass jars.

He sinks his face into his hands

and recalls what he will have to tell the neighbors.

Butterfly Dreams

A bright orange butterfly

with large black and white eyes dabbed on its wings

settle near the edge of a small bridge

over the trench running along a fence.

There is a man, 63 years old,

standing on a catwalk

overlooking a stream

that travels through his veins.

It was here over 40 years ago

that he first noticed the sound of his heartbeat.

He remembers

the color of his boots, then, were not so dull.

It glides from board to board

inspecting each blemish.

There is a boy,

well into his teenage years;

sitting under a fluorescent desk lamp

drawing the last frame

in his first full-length comic.

He doesn’t care what college he goes to now

as long as they have introductory Japanese.

Still, sometimes, he allows himself to believe in heroes.

Unimpressed, it turns its gaze to a small flower

almost completely hidden in the thick grass

lining the water’s edge.

There is a woman

who’s old enough to think

she needs to lie about her age

yet still too young to know it doesn’t matter.

She’s missed too many chances

including motherhood.

Her insides remind her of this on cold mornings

just as the injuries of athletes

remind them that they are not as invincible

as they once were.

It hovers over the feast for a few seconds

before plunging all its weight onto the, now,

strained stem of the small flower.

There is a girl

who knows she’s as beautiful as she’s been told

and smarter than she allows herself to believe.

She’s never been in love

but came close once:

said the words

and meant them for as long as she could allow.

Just as it arrives, the butterfly drifts

off into the next yard where some new delicacy awaits.

4 Poems


Ian was born on August 21st, 1986 in Georgetown, Guyana. He was raised by a seawall, a cricket bat, and two puppies. At the age of 9 he moved to the United States with his family. He is a recent graduate of Rutgers University with a Bachelor's degree in English. He now spends most of his time reading Jorge Luis Borges and writing about the Atlantic.