Coming from somewhere else
at any age, even in utero,
you're never sure
your feet touch the soil.
Your whole life you hover--
or fat dirigible, fearful
someone might poke a hole,
light a match--
You hang in there, up there,
wondering will they finally
grant permission to land
or forever challenge your passport,
check your fingerprints,
discount your money, question
could you survive as a stranger?
Best stay suspended,
forget the keys to the town.
Here, the air is dangerous, cold,
wind currents tricky, but
God, what a view.
"The Eskimos believed that the inua of an animal enjoyed being hunted with a beautiful implement."
--William W. Fitzhugh, National Geographic, Vol. 163, No. 2, February 1983
The spirit of the walrus
yearned for the flung harpoon
to bear the finest carver's mark
his own father's tusk
incised with lines and eyes
to hold the blade
the beauty of the tool
made pursuit itself an art
death a pleasure
his inua would find
inside an unborn animal
a future home
curly willow, hickory, poplar, found netting,
48" x I44"x 36 (I996)
see more work by Martha Tabor
After the black snake
slithers into the bluebird house,
swallows his prize, bursts out
the roof, wrecks the box,
he leaves on the lawn the nest
woven of moss, grass, down
plucked from the mother's breast,
and, glistening in the sun, his shed skin.
I have known men like this.
Who knows if she's sweet or mean,
that wrinkled woman in shapeless black
stirring soup for the child,
if she was a general's widow, or mistress,
whether she lost her virginity
with tenderness or by force
to a dashing lad in a flowering grove
or a whole platoon in the mud.
Or if the old man nodding over his bowl
was the one or one of the ones,
if he marched on to raze a village
or home to tend his chickens and cows.
Was this house in his family for generations
or just occupied when its owners fled
or died in the yard? The town was destroyed.
What lies under fields beyond?
The child spoons the soup. "But where
did I come from?" "You were a gift of God,"
they respond. "Or, the gods. An elf
found you under a berry bush."
They quiz him on sums and saints,
complain the storm is prying the shutters off,
then, mulling their own recollections
without speaking, finish the soup.
Is he foundling, or grandchild,
of the clan or alien blood?
War weaves shrouds of silence
around corpses and quick alike.
We back away from the window,
refasten the shutter, disappear
into the storm. The fragrance of soup
and blood clings to our clothes.
APPEARANCES, PATUXENT RIVER
You'd say, they are real: the child
digging clams in wet sand at low tide,
the boat in the cove,
two canvasbacks overhead.
The man fires from the boat,
ducks fall into their shadows.
The glint of a winch
makes the boat seem substantial
but the sun will climb into a cloud,
the boat spiral in waves and sink.
The child, who dreamed herself
somewhere and someone else,
also may vanish, perhaps in the tide,
or she will go home, where they will dress
the ducks, undress her, and whether
she eats the ducks or the fish eat her,
one or the other disappears.
Elisavietta Ritchie's new manuscript Awaiting Permission to Land won the 2001 Anamnesis Poetry Award. In Haste I Write You This Note: Stories & Half-Stories was a winner in the Washington Writers' Publishing House's premiere fiction competition (2000). Flying Time: Stories & Half-Stories (1992 & 1996) includes four PEN Syndicated Fiction winners. Among her poetry collections are: The Arc of the Storm; Elegy for the Other Woman: New and Selected Terribly Female Poems; Tightening the Circle Over Eel Country (which won Great Lakes Colleges Association's 1975-76 "New Writer's Award"); Raking the Snow (which won the Washington Writers Publishing House 1981-82 competition); and two small novellas-in-verse: Timbot and Wild Garlic, and Wild Garlic: The Journal of Maria X. She edited The Dolphin's Arc: Endangered Creatures of the Sea.
Published in Volume 3, Number 4, Fall 2002.
To read more by this author:
Ritchie on Betty Parry: Memorial
Ritchie on John
Pauker: Forebears Issue