For permission to reprint contact Rochelle Ratner, 609 Columbus Ave. (Apt. 16F), New York, NY 10024; phone/fax (212) 769-0498; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Some of these poems previously appeared in Ironwood, The Seneca Review, Dialog, Clown War, Mosaic, Friends Seminary Review, Women: The New Voice, Zahir.
Other poetry books by Rochelle Ratner:
In my life are all the mysteries of breathing. Secret doors into my spine that holds a river. He who fishes here must keep his spear point sharper than all others. He pierces the fish as it passes, letting other streams flow on unbroken. He then gives that fish to my mother. I watch her thin hands dig into its entrails. This is the life she must open.
Since coming out of his phallus the cat's grown wings which are really leaves. She roots in the air that is earth. Below her an ancient pot as used with the fire lit beneath it. Witch's pot. If what is earth will ensnare her, then what is sky grew hard at touching woman.
The mating cat struck by the pelican. Frightened, she drops her litter in the sea. The waves swell around them: a license. Their claws dart like tiny flies. Their bodies merge. I play on my flute in the sandbox and my music loses two front teeth. From shipboard I watch her case me or I take her in my arms to stroke her fur.
The stars of last night and the wind of last night wake me early, as I rise I'm more a tree than leaves around me -- once every twenty-five days I exchange light for water. All day, uphill and down, stars, wind surround me. Wind is a cloud in the sky's groin and the stars half blind behind it, bored of cycles.
Again today I find the gods deceived me. It seems what I thought was my child will be my tomb. The men take off their leopard suits and hunt me. I make my way into the pit, take leaves as head-dress. Leaves as a roof for the smoke stones come to life in.
After the hunt I am placed in damp grass and the sun falls across me with a bear's eyes. On his hind legs he's taller than I am. I turn to let my skin give more to fire. Honey seeps out of my breasts. I feed these children. Softly I lift the heat out of the water. Softly a paw's held beside me.
As the sap bursts from the tree kites glide on water. I put my hand in the tree's stream. Something, I did not know what, had come between us. More vast than current. More vast than berries. More shaded. A third force, nameless, holds trees upright. Yet branches shoot out all directions. We can eat the branches, drink the sap. In drought or desert, anything suffices.
I lie in the dung of the rabbit. In your hands you hold the arrow that denies me. Or your left hand is the arrow. With your right hand at my side I help you string it. I am wounded. On my hands and knees I cross the stream. I know this same stream took the rabbit from us.
The last time you told me the world spun I put out my hands to try and grab it, something inside me wants to live as the sun on the turtle's back. He and I shed the earth that grew in stillness. By placing our legs in the air our bodies dry out calmly, like the slow, calm reptiles blind at birth. So too, you say you want to feast on me.
There are red spots on the sun. It leans across the sky instead of rising. Lightning dies. The stars, that were a guard, have drawn their arms in like sharp thoughts born in water. I wipe the shadow from my face and learn I've wakened. The world will flood today. The plants will reach so far that arms are useless. There will be leaves in the water. I am blown about the heavens, a deep red, deep as floating.
As if slicing pieces of fruit, my hands obey me. I feel the juice peck at my fingers. Now I know the dragonfly has landed. I watch his wings fall off in darkness. These rinds and pits tie me with threads. This pulp is hollow. Still there is a tenseness at my elbow, a pain shooting down through my arm. My wrists shake to be loose from what they harbor.
At dawn I come out of the water plant. I feel earth piled high on my shoulders, one side mud and one side cooled by fire. From the leaves above my head I draw my shadow, let it run and run beneath me. It seems where men walk slow a woman hurries.
You look up at the sun so you'll breathe well. Fish die in glass. Though the beaver chewed its tail the dam existed. The water, like honey, finds its level. This: It is rising. It is climbing. It is more alone than you and I.