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Cormorant Beyond the Compost

Cormorant Beyond the Compost

Price: $14.00
ISBN 9781936370214
125 pages
copyright©2011
Cherry Grove Collections

 





Cormorant Beyond the Compost

Tradecraft in Iambic Pentameters

For a child who doubts I can keep secrets

So many secrets you will never know
long hidden in my lines on face and page.
Although my random chatter seems to flow
true tales remain confined within the cage
of my long skull, while most of those who shared
their riddles and their loves with me have died.

I too have lived adventures, and much dared.
Who'd guess? I do know better than confide.
Whispers though the skin are safe— no need
for megaphones. What if the listener spoke?

I may broadcast my sacks of words and seed:
the small birds twitter, large ones peck and croak.

For I'm the owl, who flies on unheard wings,
foretells when others die, but never sings.

The Broadkill Review Vol 4, No. 3, May 2010;
Cormorant Beyond the Compost, Cherry Grove Series, WordTech Communications, © 2011 Elisavietta Ritchie

 

Just Before Sunset 

To catch the hour of gold in the cove
discard your coins of silver and tin,
platinum buckets, pails with holes,
the circular lens with its metal rim,
all bracelets, even the rings.

Walk out where beach and jetty stop,
waves break in the last rays of sun,
step straight into wet and cold
mud-sand beneath the skin of sea.
Jump over rocks and crabs.

Follow the black-and-white ducks.
They submerge and surface, dive again,
reappear, shake drops from their wings.
When at last you catch up, unsure where
you are, learn to swim before dark.

 

Navigational Problems

I never warned you:  falling in love is not
as simple as tumbling from a canoe
in shallow coves and donning new jeans
as if nothing had changed.

Sand and mud, water bugs, seaweed strands cling.
Crabs snatch out your sun-struck eyes.
Minnows of lust keep nibbling bared flesh.
Electric or moray, sea-serpents bite.

Ebb tide can pull you into strange seas
or leave you ship-wrecked, thirsty, deranged…
No matter how leaky the battered hull,
we still steer into the next hurricane.

 

 

 

 

 

 



Navigational Problems

I never warned you:  falling in love is not
as simple as tumbling from a canoe
in shallow coves and donning new jeans
as if nothing had changed.

Sand and mud, water bugs, seaweed strands cling.
Crabs snatch out your sun-struck eyes.
Minnows of lust keep nibbling bared flesh.
Electric or moray, sea-serpents bite.

Ebb tide can pull you into strange seas
or leave you ship-wrecked, thirsty, deranged…
No matter how leaky the battered hull,
we still steer into the next hurricane.

 


Ours Is An Untidy Earth 
(On a Request for a Poem after the 2006 Tsunami)

I have known hurricanes.
Mostly those that broke
in another time or state
somewhere up the coast,

And, first-hand, one that surged
over bulkhead, covered lawn,
flooded woods, crept up steps—
surf beat all night against our house.

Flood swamped the car, stored gear
and water pump. Still, our power worked.
Creatures reached the higher slopes,
most wrecked terrain regrows. 

Yet I know those other coasts
tropic and exotic,
roadless and uncharted,
awash with people and heat. 

Now that sea inscribes its own
trajectory,  leaving new
rivers, gullies, mounts and maps,
unnamed orphans, nameless mounds.

Did all the gods conspire
for this terrible housecleaning?
Gods are a capricious lot. Even here,
the drowned keep tapping at our windowpane.

 

 

 More Tsunami News 

Those unknown women noted only afterward
who did not, could not, flee the wave
poised like Hokusai's above the boat,
the home, the fields, the street, the beach
 

where children played, turned to snatch them up,
then rushed already burdened with the kettle, pot,
ancestral portraits, best batiks, half-made bread,
items women think about.

They did not make it,
while their men, who farmed higher ground
or rode out the strangely buoyant seas
or faster, just outran the waves, mostly survived…

A curl of surf in every sea.

 

Flotsam, Jetsam 

Translucent medusas in the surf
surf heaps medusas on the beach
surf tumbles agates milky as cataracts
tumbles a body in the waves 

always one washes in at our feet
boulders sharp with barnacles and crabs
jut from surf at low tide
yet the body shows no scrapes  

a shift of light at the edge of beach
at night the body emits a gleam
of phosphorus while it decays
glowworms of the soul burn our brains 

what sense       could this be that corpse
in the stranger's dream      an armored knight
she recalled     rolled in by the surf
from holes in his mask a terrible light

or is this the one on the isle I saw my first
corpse at fifteen read the young girl's diary     the day
after I lost my virginity for the first time   
he'd been in the sea three weeks

awake for years to find how to read
a message in surf and stanzas on sand
what strewn flotsam means
how did he die   why find him here in the sea
again and again       awake or in dreams
what do we do with the dead
 

like a mouse on a Limoges gold-rimmed plate
what do we do with the light

 

What Do You Do With a Dead Bird   

Found beneath the water-oak: one wren
belly up. Wire legs, beak a black thorn,
splash of daffodil above the tail, a fan of gray.
Underside: three oblong patches, white.

Milkweed on his gold-striped breast.
He lies on my manuscripts tonight,
wings wide—to applaud, or to escape?
Pristine. Zapped in full song, full flight?  

Can't toss a bird in the compost bin
with apple cores, orange rinds.
Compose/Compost…Oh—darn, the door!
Clear up—What would visitors say 

of a host who keeps dead birds?
Weird taste for moribund things.
Yet what no longer pecks or stings,
spears or talks, I'll hold and scrutinize.  

Mortality's an expected guest.
Skulls are fine for saints to contemplate.
Permit this wingless sinner then
a cranium mere blueberry size.
 

 

No-Shows

This is the final day
 of years of sweetness…
             Petrarch

I wanted all of you live.
Why did some die
en route to the party?

The best fell even
before leaving home.

Others, long dead, crept
through garden doors,
kitchen windows, half drunk
bottles in hand, years late.

What can I offer now—
flat beer, vinegar-wine,
anemic champagne?

Cockatoos finished the caviar,
roaches the camembert,
mice left trails on the plates.

True, we've all changed.
New lines etch our palms.
Will we have voices to sing,
an audience to applaud?

Yet we agreed to greet
the New Year together again.
The table is set.
My blackberry vodka is chilled.
I'll expect you at ten.

 

 

 

While Reading Your Proust

We're separated by deep snow and ice.
Still you communicate, scratch lines
in margins: vertical, erasable.

I respond to thoughts on thoughts
of love and suffering and time and art
with dots of red, risky yet ephemeral.

But at the bottom of one sepia page
your bloodied finger left a print, betrays.
Your whorls and swirls are unmistakable.
These do not fade like blood on snow…

Today the roads are clear…

In code I shall convey whole tomes,
my horizontal lines on sin
inscribed with icicles across your skin.
 

 

Chimney Sweep, November 

A colonoscopist of brick, he's come to ream us out,
clear winter's cinders, summer's flying squirrels,
one young raccoon with Santa fantasies.

Traditional top hat, but from the band
iridescent feathers sprout: red hawk and cock.
Beard curls are gray from ash and age. A dandy's eyes.

He decries glass fireplace doors (panes leak the heat),
ignores the mismatched andirons, adjusts the damper higher,
saves my pitched manuscripts, says pine burns fine if dry.

He wears the leer of men who peer up more
than sooty shafts. I pay no mind. I know: like fire,
when we no longer burn, we die.

 

Just Before Sunset 

To catch the hour of gold in the cove
discard your coins of silver and tin,
platinum buckets, pails with holes,
the circular lens with its metal rim,
all bracelets, even the rings.

Walk out where beach and jetty stop,
waves break in the last rays of sun,
step straight into wet and cold
mud-sand beneath the skin of sea.
Jump over rocks and crabs.

Follow the black-and-white ducks.
They submerge and surface, dive again,
reappear, shake drops from their wings.
When at last you catch up, unsure where
you are, learn to swim before dark.

 

 

"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

 

 

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Elisavietta Ritchie
P.O. Box 298, Broomes Island, MD 20615
— contact Elisavietta Ritchie via email —