Elisavietta Ritchie


Could this year's bumper crop
have snapped so thick a limb?
Did deer like misplaced kangaroos
stretch high, shake the branch too hard?

True, the trunk's half-dead,
woodpeckers pocked the shiny bark
for secret cities of bugs.

Apples indeed fall near the tree.
Most are hornet-bored and green.
My progeny scramble for what looks ripe.
Inbred in our genes, the need to climb,
swipe fruit, fear death from bees.

What do I know of my gene-bearers' lives
at any stage of their particular games
of picking fruit or friends or fights?

Can one feel the aches in another's head
or guts? Pain of their scrapes? Dare I blame
their natural yens, unrequited as mine
for Fujis and Goldens high overhead?

What did my parents divine of my Grade-A life,
the funny man in the stable who begged to pet
my six-year-old pussycat? Or the boy, fifteen,
flame-haired as I, who leapt in my bed, and out?
The later clandestine now moribund swains
who wooed me with apples and cider, spiked?

What did I know of my parents' lives,
why my mother slurred, my father strayed?
How they talked across oceans in dreams?
Why still, to the end, they loved and grieved?

We can only teach progeny how to peel
the scabbiest apple skin with our teeth,
like Eve bite through, then, sticky and sweet,
spit for the deer the wormy core
and six glistening mahogany seeds
arsenic-laden, yet reputed good-for-the-heart.

A baroque pearl enchained
to the wrinkles of a moribund dame,
I yearn to dive home, beyond the tide.
A lump of needled flesh on a skinny bed, alone,
cut off from sun, sea, stars, butterflies. Half-dead.
Sparrows peck at the concrete window ledge
I can't reach to scatter crumbs from the underdone
hospital muffins. At night the doubled moon injects
dry ice into my  insomnia. Most of all, torn
from the furnace of your embers which warmed my bones,
I understand if you could never touch this body again.
Have your rashes worsened beneath the strains?
Yet now you carry me over the threshold
as if a bride, and fold me into our own wide bed,
which may only be a beginning.

Elisavietta Ritchie's 15 books include Real Toads; Awaiting Permission to Land; Spirit of the Walrus; Arc of the Storm; Elegy for the Other Woman; Tightening The Circle Over Eel Country; Raking The Snow; In Haste I Write You This Note; Flying Time. Editor, The Dolphin's Arc: Endangered Creatures of the Sea, and others, her work is widely published, translated and anthologized. Ex-president for poetry, then fiction, Washington Writers' Publishing House.



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