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Elisavietta Ritchie, three poems

We Wake Beside an Invisible River

Fog swishing through Georgia pines

screens our world inside a Japanese dawn,

veils deer among flowering quince.

Yet through the scrim of mists

we see the Buddha at Kamakura,

small deer we fed at Nara,

cormorants with rings

around their throats bringing fish

to skiffs in the Inland Sea.

When mists clear we will see Fujiyama

surrounded by sapphire waves

and crowned with perpetual snows—

No. The tardy sun burns this day

clear over our own graygreen cove

were tide now covers marsh and sand.

Our great blue heron proclaims

longevity over cattails and huge pink

marshmallow flowers edging the cove,

the cormorant only passing through dives

for minnows then, perched on a piling, swallows,

airs his long narrow wings, and dives…

The far river banks are fringed with bent oaks,

fields of soybeans, corn and ebony steers

grazing beside the Patuxent river….

One crane still flies against the misty red sun

over a rice padi, pink petals, skinny reeds,

on an antique scroll on our Maryland wall.

Arboreal Identifications

One leaf in the tree too far to identify

twirls and twists in its own wind,

may wither, brown, fall with the rest

or keep its own schedule.

No need for comparison,

labels “metaphor” or “simile.”

This leaf is, I am, will merely attempt

to keep watch, keep on twirling, twisting—

Tiger Lilies

Beyond the far garage where no one sees them, this

gray dawn tiger lilies must see no point in full blooms:

who but the deer and I pass here with orange rinds,

apple cores, carrot peels, en route to the compost bin

hidden behind the fig trees at wood’s edge?

The lilies could not give the least anthropomorphic damn

whether anyone passes and pauses, so on the return trip

though lilies won’t last beyond sunset I pick five blooms:

half-open orange, yellow, scarlet streaks, my offering for you

ephemeral as love (ours so far good but always needs nurturing).

Lilies are briefly blooming metaphors to buttress the cliché:

life, if not always love, is limited. Time, days, seasons, etc. change.

Nor do lilies muse on their blatant sexuality: pistils and stamens

thrust into dawn as if no tomorrow. They can’t know there’s not.

Let us open, love, bloom while we can. By dark we too wither, drop.


Elisavietta Ritchie’s stories, poem's, articles, photographs are widely published, anthologized, translated. Her newest collection is entitled: REFLECTIONS: POEMS ON PAINTINGS, A POET'S GALLERY, from Poet's choice. Her new book, HARBINGERS, should be out mid September. Her recent books include: Babushka’s Beads: A Geography of Genes; Guy Wires; Tiger Upstairs on Connecticut Avenue; Feathers, Or, Love on the Wing; Cormorant Beyond the Compost, Arc of the Storm, Elegy for the Other Woman. Flying Time: Stories & Half-Stories; In Haste I Write You This Note: Stories & Half-Stories. An updated e-book version of In Haste I Write You This Note: Stories & Half-Stories, a winner of the Writers' Publishing House Premiere Fiction prize and first came out in a print edition in 2000, is now available. She is ex-president Washington Writers’ Publishing House.

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