That summer my first love and I
lived in a cave we dug in an old
pit near Three Rivers, Wisconsin.
Five years old, under a roof of reeds
spread across our stick frame,
we lay close the way parents do,
My love’s diabetic brother, seven,
who every day got shots from the nurse,
tunneled his own cave next door.
Beyond our forbidden quarry,
pastures stretched past the creek,
field corn rose higher and higher.
We lost ourselves in forests of stalks,
then reset our compass, plotted a course
back to our cave, ate our apples and bread.
Suddenly the hill avalanched—
We flailed our hands—fingers
entangled in branches and vines—
Sand sifted over us—Sand choked
our throats—My love grew sleepy
beneath our blanket of sand…
His brother managed to crawl
from his own ruined cave.
We heard his stuttered words—
I’m trying to dig through your roof—
Shaking too hard—His later report:
Walked miles to find a farmer,
he promised a search and rescue,
soon as he milked
his thirty bellowing cows.
Crows threatened to pluck out my eyes.
My ribs hurt and my love grew cool
for so warm a day. Dusk fell over us.
I felt bugs climb our mountain of selves,
heard dogs—or wolves?—howl above us,
the scratch of rat claws on our pails,
then shouts of unfamiliar men but
I remembered: don’t talk with strangers,
above all never at night…
At dawn strangers dug us out.
Next day they buried my love again.
His brother and I cried for days and days…
And now I cannot recall their names…
TO MAKE CONNECTIONS
Eating blueberries while
watching a dusty freighter rip
the rind of the bay while waves
reknit her wake the shade
of well-washed blueberries
topped with whipped cream,
thinking: rooted, rootless,
all in motion, although
blueberry bushes don’t
much sway, wait to be
plucked, pruned or moved.
What connection? Mine,
while I eat dusty berries,
watch the dusty freighter.
Viewed through a pane
as if in a photograph,
all seems unreal, unreliable:
sea unstable beyond
dune grass windblown,
bent, trampled, crushed,
depends upon season
and weather to change
from straw into green.
we believe always
colors and shapes.
The present continuous,
all gerunds, nothing fixed
in limiting space while
extending through time.
Blueberries and freighter
vanish into past tense.
TRADECRAFT: FINDING A SAFE HOUSE [FOR A FLOWER]
“Home is a dangerous place,” PK said
Your father beat you as a child.
Your aging mother shuns you now.
Moribund brothers welcome you home
as long as they need a chauffeur.
Wives and beloveds come, disappear,
return like starlings mid-migration—
Like vultures who hover overhead,
descend when they need a feast.
Yet you built a safe house in your heart
for the homeless on all our doorsteps,
you recite incantations, alphabets
weave words into blankets, or shrouds.
Christmas Eve you bring to this safe house
one cyclamen, covert messages traced
on dark green heart-shaped leaves
and codes in petals magenta as love.
SO TRUTH LIES BEYOND
“and then the
periods, beyond which the truth lies.”
From “The William Faulkner House,” Andrew Oerke
So that’s where elusive truth lies?
Or did you mean: truth fibs?
You and I discussed ambiguities
while after tennis one hot afternoon
when even a shower, granted together,
did not cool us down, or off,
we lay on an unambiguous bed.
Beyond one afternoon, infinite
absence, of course for the best:
“unlimited love” is unlimited
beyond any final mark,
beyond your grave.
GARDENERS IN FLIGHT
Earth we dug, seeded, tended, pruned,
before harvest were forced to abandon—
will those who take over our land
pour dregs of their tea over new seedlings,
pray over them, bless whatever grows,
pull weeds, preserve seeds for next year?
We are all refugees, Eve but the first.
Did she create a plot, scratch furrows,
sow patches of desert bloodied,
fertilized, by that first murder?
LIKE GRANDHI, I’LL OBSERVE A DAY OF SILENCE
But suddenly cicadas turn on all at once—
Discarded exoskeletons crunch like potato chips—
Swans hiss, herons croak, gulls shriek,
All night frogs in the marsh discuss romance—
Fear of silence wraps me like a shroud--
Beethoven’s Ninth! Full voice I sing along.
Elisavietta Ritchie, Broomes Island, Maryland