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Fickle Muses an online journal of myth and legend

Fractured Reality by Gregory Dolnikowski
fractured reality
by Gregory Dolnikowski

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Two poems by Sherre Vernon

Elijah Dreaming

1 Kings 18-19
Iraq, 2004

Brother,

I dreamed again of famine
in Baghdad, through the earth,
a tongue, a child crying Elijah
is come to kill me.

We summoned four hundred
brought them down
slit their throats
and made a trench.
I am the only
surviving.

I have seen the noon bare
her breasts for a little attention:
a green olive shawl
over the branches of white
blossoms. Like shade,
she says even the cactus
gives milk.

“Why are you here, Elijah?”

In Syria, in Baghdad:
the white broom juniper –

Through the Mojave and Sierra:
your joshua –

I am afraid.

It’s a day’s journey
into the dunes
to summon the grave:
I am no better than my fathers.

Our grandfather, an old man
fills a small canvas bag
with blossoms, the brush
too tall for his reach.
He makes me take it.
Grandmother says he does this
because he is dying.
I can feel her
bones inside me.

The sky grains brittle
with wind, and a heavy yashmak rain
the wind, a quaking,
a fire, a tiny whispering sound –

And I thought of the Anasazi
And I thought of Israel,
stacking stone upon stone,
so I hid my face and stood
at the entrance of the cave,
took the old road back.
Oh, my brother,
let the desert throw her cloak
over you.

 

Of Penelope and Calypso,
ca. 1973

I

With driftwood, the sea
touches her, pale and only
for the lean blue nights.
Penny downs
her Odyssey and sleeps
against the crook

of his arm, unfired clay.
He has withheld since
returning: this translation
is hard on the eyes, and English
a language of stone.

It is no unfamiliar thing
this leaving, this foregoing
the smell of rice paper,
by a woman’s hands traced
and hidden;
in deep accident,
by woman’s hands
found.

II

He knows one question
will unlock the years,
rust her bitter chastity,
unfork his tongue:
he will tell how he spilt her
name into the sandy stars
and intoned her face
through chalk-charred
northern cliffs,

how only unseen delay
kept him breast-pillowed
in a stranger’s cove.
He will say, no, I never

loved her so well as you
who weaved and unwove
everyman’s reach,
you who watched the sky,
the shivered horizon, for some
scar of my return.

III.

From shoulder glancing,
and the search for wild
yarrow trenches,
her tiny hand cuffs
where long hair fell –

to Ha Long Bay, a woman
bosomed and bare
washes away the last
of green face-oil, coarse
western cotton
between her thighs, long
cloth rolled to show –

dispossessed, an ankle,
in this burned thatch
where a man might –
were he not bound
by one lock of wind, forget
her unanswered covenant,
the why he left, and the way
he shoaled his Calypso.


“Elijah Dreaming” first appeared in Sherre Vernon’s fiction chapbook, Green Ink Wings (Elixir Press) http://www.elixirpress.com/book_titles/green.html. Both poems will appear in her forthcoming chapbook in the next edition of Ruah http://popruah.opwest.org/.