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Sample Poems by Elisavietta Ritchie

Neighbors Speak Their Minds
About That Lady Up the Street

She falls in love with all she meets, the fool-
Can't choose among a daisy, rose, or weed
but crams them all in one bouquet
in a crystal vase or old coke can-
workmen in muddy boots, tramps, diplomats
from countries nowhere on our globes, artistes,
rat-loving scientists in velvet jeans-
Trotsky's grandniece and a Russian prince
at her same dining table? Where's her tact?

Picks up some hitchhiker who spent the night
in jail- mistake, he swears, it's cold and far
and no one else has given him a ride,
got miles to walk till he gets home again.
She invites him for a meal!
Hangs out with
tattooed bikers, bouncers, mavericks, cranks.
What mess of accents, shades and origins,
traveling zoos and dynasties of strays,
storm- tossed squirrels, lost cats, orphan ducks, strange men-
Who knows what lot she sleeps with?
Or sleeps not?

Punching, kicking, tangling at karate-
Give us propriety, decorum, please!

Camille Pissarro: The Bather speaks

I must have been beautiful back then,
am still surprised how many men pursued...

I let them think me but a starchy prude
until we paddled up the river when
the day was fair, light yellow, blue and green.

I was afraid the sun would leave
freckles on my breasts and we'd conceive
an unexpected child from where we'd been
cavorting in the shallows by the bank
of tiger lilies, peppermint and moss-

We yearned for more, but foliage was dank
with spilled champagne and sticky with cassis.

A need to pee, then nettle stings, kept me
from further loss of maidenhood ...

Each loss is the first, and never quite the same.
Those early days, I never understood.

I have made many famous but forget their
dear artists who would sketch me in the nude.

I was a willing model: French plumbing then
was crude.

So they would scrub me till I shone, then came
to hang on this renown museum wall,
my loveliness immortalized in paint.

Although my grandmothers would faint,
I have no regrets I gave to art my all.

Search Parties

I am out with lanterns,
searching for myself.
-Emily Dickinson

For me, a candle should suffice.
Barring that-a match.
No lamp that burns too bright
Or lasts-

Self, no angel,
Disappoints, stuns-
Mirrors yield danger,
Leave us wrung,

Are more honest?
In mirrors a flame
Deceives, reflects,
Flickers blame.

Truth no spice cake
Love is crumbs-
In walls, mice wait
alert, not dumb-

Night Watchman

That night I slept all night in your arms
and all night you did not sleep, what did
you see while you peered through my skull?

Did I veil myself in a scrim of dreams?
Did you unravel them one by one,
braid together those banners of silk
to create a magic quilt for our bed?

Or did you discover it less gossamer
inside this round bone, caverns dark,
close as a mine whose dangerous shafts
collapsed as you passed, lantern on cap?

Did you count layers of lovers inside,
some with whom I never did sleep,
friendly sardines in the tin of my mind...

I hope you made the most of your chance
to explore the terraced landscape within.

I lack a map through my labyrinth.

Please draw me a topographical chart,
highlight any shifts of tectonic plates,
plot us a road through that risky terrain.

August Renoir: Lady with Parasol
in a Garden

I slip through the flowering crowds,
avoid bees schooling around me.
A parasol shades my face from the sun,
from their stingers, their trickster eyes.

My petticoats skim peony beds,
other beds where I've slept
or not slept or still might-
who is to know?

I glide through this garden as if
through a novel-in-progress,
an observer-scribe,
imagine, perceive, take notes-

Like a spider, long-legged, Latin name longer*,
I pause near azaleas, inspect a neglected web,
weigh which fly, gnat or small arachnid to nab,
let my mandibles crunch, then devour at dusk.

*Pholous phalangiodes