Awaiting Permission to Land
Cherry Grove Collections
Elisavietta Ritchie's poetry could be in the tradition of Moore, Bishop or Akhmatova, both the lyrical and the grim, an insatiable curiosity about the world pervades her poems, rendered in deceptively understated, clear lines. Yet as the world teems with life and knowledge, the poems of Awaiting Permission to Land churn far more deeply than their lines reveal at first glance.
When I walked to the pier you thought
I'd set off to check for crabs
or bail the half-swamped boat.
Both tasks needed doing.
No crabs in the trap, no bait left,
but I scooped twenty-three pails
of rain from the heaving hull
while she banged the dock.
What I was going for, in truth,
was to find a poem for you,
hoped a poem would find me
open as the pail of boat
or the lilies I passed,
enter me like a lover,
leave me fertile with verse.
All I found were these words.
In autumn, field mice moved inside
our rented hundred-year-old house gnawed new holes in every room, every box of crackers, pasta, cereal and rice.
Our manuscripts were shredded lace for tiny cradles, winding sheets. Despite the landlord's stern advice, I set no traps or bait: God's creatures.
Near the abandoned hen house where turkey vultures raised their single chick
(ungainly, ugly, fluffy, anxious to make friends)
until the landlord drove them out,
now a six-foot black snake sheds his skin.
Translucent, whole, this goes on the shelf with arrowheads, fossil shells, otter skulls.
Then I gather up the glistening prize, coil
by muscled coil. He wraps me in obsidian
necklaces and crowns. I carry him inside, ignore the squealing guests, point him toward the hole above the stove.
"Go for it, pal!" Unsure, he sways,
then catches on, tries the hole for size, inch by inch uncoils his endless neck…
The final rubber tail flicks, disappears.
Seasons pass. No more signs of mice though generations must have fled
chilling gardens, sheds and fields,
sought our deceptive shelter.
He surely lengthened, thickened till unfit
to exit any hole. Too satisfied to try?
Odd slitherings in ceilings, walls,
confirm his steady presence on the job
I don't inform the landlord. We move,
he reclaims his house, keeps in tenuous touch.
"I've plugged old holes," he writes. "No complaints
of wintered mice." No mention of my snake.
[Earth's Daughters #57, 2001, An Earth Odyssey; The Spirit of the Walrus. Bright Hill Press, copyright 2005 Elisavietta Ritchie, Awaiting Permission to Land, Cherry Grove Publications, copyright 2006 Elisavietta Ritchie]