Lisa Richter

Amazement

When it’s over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.

—Mary Oliver, “When Death Comes”

 
The snow never asks the frozen ground
for permission before laying thickly over it,
before getting down on its knees,
pressing its forehead toward the centre
of what hurts us most in the cold season—
the heart’s vault rusted with sleep,
so choked with the blood-smoke of ancestors
we have to see each other’s faces with our hands.
And yet, sometimes I think there is an asking
we can’t hear—a vague gesturing toward
a blueprint but no one can make out the figures.

 
This morning, on the bus to work
I looked up from the aluminosilicate screen
in my palm, through the looping vines
of down-coated arms, hands clinging
to metal poles, and there, outside the window:
the sky’s lavender and mauve silk
doused in flame. For a moment I thought
if I held my breath I could permanently
stain the sky that colour: salt estuary
of night mingling with the day’s ice waters.

 
Somewhere, in a quiet forest resembling
Massachusetts, Mary Oliver is walking
in the footprints of a deer whose scat she kneels
in the snow to observe. Now she is clumping
further down along the path in her warm boots
past pine and birch that give as much as they take
from winter’s brusque bemoaning.
Sudden flapping overhead: spill of cardinal
feathers, blood beating against white.
Mary finds one of the pencils she has hidden
in the trees for this purpose, a slip
of paper in her pocket, scribbles a line
before returning wood to wood.
Now she is reaching a cabin with a red roof
and a stove pipe, looking in the window
exclaiming Oh as she lets herself in.

 

 

At the Rodin Museum

Danaid, I skim your marble vertebrae with my eyes,
unable to touch the basalt and granite of your body’s
stone landscape. I picture it: the blood, how seas of it
swirled around your feet, baths that you and your sisters
soaked in, the astonished fear that foamed up
from your husbands’ eyes. Your father had promised
you to them through their father, parceling off tracts
of abdomen, breast, calf and thigh—did you know
that the night of the wedding they’d come at you,
these bridegrooms with surveying equipment, licking
their lips at the earth they’d deplete of its metals,
staking bequeathed territory? After they raped you—
as your forty-nine brothers-in-law raped
your forty-nine sisters—tectonic plates shifted
along your fault-lines. Tidal waves rose in vertical
fury. You plunged daggers you’d hidden in bodices
into their hearts, your revenge’s elixir sluicing
through Aegean veins. Still, it was you, depicted naked
here, bent over in supplication or mourning
that the gods condemned with the endless filling
of a vessel that could never be filled until the stars
convulsed with the memory of your keening.

 

Lisa Richter’s debut collection of poetry, Closer to Where We Began, was published by Tightrope Books in 2017. Her work has previously appeared in a number of journals, including The Malahat Review, Literary Review of Canada, CV2, Crab Creek Review, and The Puritan. She was the first-place winner of CV2’s 2 Day Poem Contest in 2017, and was longlisted for the CBC Poetry Prize in 2015. Her second book of poetry is forthcoming with Frontenac House Books in fall 2020. She lives, writes, and teaches English as a Second Language in Toronto, Canada.

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