Fall 2010

Table of Contents - Vol. VI, No. 3


Poetry    Fiction    Reviews   

Elisavietta Ritchie



Does the ghost of a cat return in all her fur?
All that fur, strands on random cushions, chairs. Not great tufts but wisp here, wisp there on our dark-blue quilt. I can’t wipe them off with towels.
Cannot be, here, tonight, her albino angora hair.
I listen and listen for her meow, her purr in the wind, though last year she was buried far end of the meadow.
(That moment I wasn’t there so I cannot vouch for her proper interment, only that she died December five in my arms).
She might yet be on her white prowl somewhere, to scatter her fur, her wee and her meows throughout the stilled house, the resounding farm.
The way dead loves continue to shed their whirls of words, strands of song, tatters of howls.


Beyond Laramie

Snow is a winding sheet now ragged and crumpled in the hollows and in patches on the northeast slopes. Sun and wind clear snow off most of the sandstone boulders, wind smoothes their edges, so mostly they blend with the beige grasses and low brush. Snow clings to cuts in the hills; sides split open like a cake or corpse show striations of ivory and gray, maroon and black. Bone and sinew, are all I can think, blood and char.
A few slashes of black are stark against the sere background and foreground: tatters of plastic caught on a fence, one black horse near an isolated shed. Black the stumps and skeletons of trees. Near-black the triangles of conifers planted in rare rows to hold back snow. Obsidian the jagged chunks resembling statues frozen while dancing, discus throwing, or dying. And black my hair, obsidian my eyes.
The terrible, magnificent, blue of sky is relieved by two shabby clouds over this land of space and slide and slice.
Otherwise, everything here is the shade of a dirty camel who dumps his dung across the plains.
Camel, my color.
I am the international refugee from a country no longer on a map, an undocumented immigrant of undetermined age or sex, a universal donor with no more blood to give.
The cold is inimical also to the soul, which tries to recall—and soul can recall, memory is not the dominion only of the mind—the humid warmth of equatorial lands, with their shouting, shooting, dangerous cacophonies. And laughter.
Here, a laugh is but a howl of wind, of a coyote who bemoans fled antelopes. Danger is not frozen out, only congealed, waiting.
What good is nostalgia? How can a marked man return to lands linked, torn apart, still bound together in the ancient arguments of overwhelming populations? Each group is steeped in the rivalries of generations---generations not beyond recall, for within each clan or cluster, the elders keep alive, burnish and pass on, their ferocious quarrels.
In this barren winter landscape, how could there be enough inhabitants to stoke old feuds? People move, or die in the hills, or in the depressions between hills. A few feuds, like the births and deaths, are remembered, enshrined in print or etched on stone, maintained by unknown archivists whose work is of scant interest to visitors or the sparse settlers.
Rare freight trains, long and laden with sealed gray rectangles containing unknown cargo, snake like well-fed pythons across the horizon, their warning whistles now a combination of shriek-howl-moan. On highways, huge and noisy rectangles of double-trucks also transport food and goods, but who is there to buy?
I am here, but lack the cash. Trains and trucks rush somewhere I will not reach. Express trucks speed the mail. I have no fixed address, and who would write to me?
On the outskirts of isolated towns, between the shuttered industrial sites and the residential streets where lights are extinguished by nine o’clock, used car lots hose their vehicles clean of dust. Street lights reflect wild eyes off hoods and roofs all night till dust dims them again. Vehicles are securely locked: not one where I might crawl in and sleep a few warm hours until dawn. Then I would move on before the sun brought people out.
En route I might pause at a truck stop or fast food shop with good bins, miniature oases where nobody asks questions or tries to make friends. Enough to speak one word, polite and quick: my accent would betray.
Mine was a jumble of countries steeped in heat and green, the glistening green of enormous leaves shot through with veins and stripes of dark-greens and light--greens, leaves blood-speckled green, the stripes and pistils crimson. Jungles swarm with frogs, monkeys, insects and birds in rainbows of color. Everyone, everything, wet with rain or mist, waterfall or flood. The smells are bloom, decay, rebirth, re-bloom. Deserts smell of smoke and dust and mysteries.
Here, space and cold freeze secrets. The seeming freedom both frightens and liberates. Over every land, the moon, full or slivered, only on occasion reveals secrets below.
I carry my back-story as if in my knapsack, buckled shut. Others can only guess at its contents from bulges, from clues that leak out like liquids or lizards. I must pull a guillotine-like shutter down on my future, that story that could have happened beyond The End.
For even out here, though one can elude them for a while, always the shadowers, the watchers, remain alert as pit bulls, hyenas. A lone hawk or unsubstantial cluster of blackbirds monitor my progress.
As in chess, where a few pieces may still stand but are stymied, and their shadows no longer shift across unoccupied squares, checkmate threatens any move I weigh. Whether to go forward, backwards, dogleg or diagonally—satisfactory resolution is elusive.
No need to concern myself with immortality, make a statement, hurt or notify another individual. No desire to trail riddles, guessing games regarding nationality or age, gender or blood type. Others can imagine, however way they want, what went before. Some conjectures will be surely correct. None matter.
I need only choose the simplest course across the hills into a slim crevasse. I have no regrets, rather a sense of a final chapter written, my destiny fulfilled.


© Elisavietta Ritchie



Poetry    Fiction    Reviews   

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