Site design: Skeleton
Sample Poems by Elisavietta Ritchie
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 lovewith 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.
Visions of My Half-Awake
Peculiar actors inhabit this night.
Their dialogue dimly heard, I half-understand,
leap across beds, some occupied.
What a dramatis personae! Royal types from
six-foot decks of cards, trapezoidal head gear
flat red and gold and black, blend to blobs,
stretch into other character actors.
One dame in thick green petticoats
hands me quilts, or clothes, though I
no longer dream my nakedness. Just
as well these days, though behind the scrim
I am the viewer, not the viewed.
New troupes materialize, mutate, dissolve
to puddles, fade off stage. No way
to save them in formaldehyde…
Aware all this is masquerade, I watch
the carnival yet also dance....
Visitors and visions play their airy roles,
then waltz away to new sets,
stages out of range.
Let me stay within this world!
Pain and sunrise tug me out.
Must wait till I too am chimera,
slated to appear/disappear
in someone else’s lucid dream.
The Saint in a Box of Glass
She keeps calling out to me
in Old Church Slavonic, Release!
Let me out and I will reveal
only to you the martyrdoms
of all three saints whose name
you bear but have no hope
to emulate. Know
what you will miss.
Her promises are dimmed
as fish songs in aquariums.
Brush my hair, please,
it keeps on growing—
Tangles glow amber
in the murky cathedral.
I buy and light a taper, drip hot
wax on a brass tray, stick one end
in the puddle of wax till the candle holds,
then glance over my shoulder.
Bend down, kiss my holy bones.
Mine are stronger than your own.
She seems to twitch.
I flee beyond these walls.
Ito Jakuchu artist b. 1716, Kyoto
A boy in his father’s market, he arranges
radishes, long and white as albino carrots
with fat scarlet tubers, in patterns mixed
like stones in the temple courtyard,
piles melons high as the mountains beyond
the stalls, polishes squashes, loquats and ginger,
shakes rain from bouquets of green onions.
His small fingers stroke the shitakes’ gills
so lightly they leave no mark but
come away fragrant with rotting oak.
His father cannot trust him to guard the poultry:
he might unhinge bamboo cages to free the ducks.
He releases roosters into the snow, scatters
good grain so they stay pecking there
long enough for him to sketch tail plumes
dark-green fire, manes iridescent bronze,
proud heads with rubbery wattles.
In lulls between serving housewives with plums,
trading spinach for seaweed with clam diggers,
and bartering rice for salt with farmers,
with swiped charcoal lumps he draws
chrysanthemums on the sign boards,
swirls, birds and bamboo on the banners,
prefiguring colors on rice paper, silk
edged with brocade, scrolls so precious
temple priests hide them away from the eyes
of peasants, fishermen, vendors of juice.
He would understand why I apologize
to the tomato before my knife slices,
caress the tawny hen while I wait
for the stew pot to boil.
in one wide tree
he sees a boat
in milkweed seeds
the billowed sails
in stones the earth
in ponds the sea
in puddles sky
in candles stars
and in one heart