Yellow, white, dirt
and hyacinths poking through snow: I am
not quite a year old. Two prepubescent boys
bang into walls, tables, each other, anything smaller.
Big sister tips her highchair. Mother’s belly
swells with the next one. The big man
who swallows all the oxygen
is not here,
as usual. I have been reading
the library of this place for ten months:
the books of my mother’s eyes and body
feel like my own. I am unable
to distinguish my tears from her unshed ones
or my clenched belly from her
tightly contained fury
acted out in the tomes of my brothers: their shouts
and fists breaking even air. All the words in this library
feeling like fire or ice. The way any universe begins
SITTING ON THE BEACH IN SHORE FOG
Decades, thick as this mist, rolled on: nothing
quite visible. Muffled lyrics of longings, damp pledges
chanted by invisible waves. Sea teaching me.
I might have been a singer, moving hearts
to dance and weep. Except I arrived with colic: a tiny
bundle of screams. Left to cry alone
because holding my writhing softness
could not comfort my depressed mother. The fog
is burning off now. Giving way to gray sky. I might
have played perfect rivers of grace on a silver flute.
Except, in that house with seven others,
all of them angry, starving for kindness, I survived
by going silent, invisible. I might have danced,
giving and taking joy through my body,
except for being invaded by grown men
when I was too young to be
believed and also too young to hate. I wanted to be
an angel carrying the world’s anguish up and away.
Instead, I am a chalice to this moment, now, of sun
absolving all the tears held by sky. Warming
miles of sand. Encouraging ocean’s groans and laughter.
Blessing all the humans walking one way, then
back the other as they search for the perfect shell or rock,
hoping for a seastar. For surcease from their daily quest
to be more. And, now, sun has made a pocket of blue sky
just big enough, like me, to hold
and release whatever is required.
Jude Rittenhouse has received a Writer’s Grant from the Vermont Studio Center and poetry awards from Glimmer Train Press, Inc., and Poets and Patrons of Chicago. Selections of her poems have also been finalists for Nimrod’s Pablo Neruda Prize for Poetry and have been published in literary magazines and anthologies, including Nimrod International Journal; Tiferet: Literature, Art, & The Creative Spirit; River Oak Review; Newport Review; Her Mark 2005 (Woman Made Gallery, 2005); and The Kali Guide: A Directory of Resources for Women (Zenprint, 2002), among others.