Elizabeth I. Riseden

Fünf Gedichte auf dem Winter

 

 

Labyrinth


Step without haste
See your feet move
In, then, to the jumbled core---
An apple unsure if ripe scarlet green
or sick puce. Stop at a juncture
Stand. Release confusion, choose direction.
Step onward.
Up comes your prejudiced
Indian-baiting
second grade teacher.
I stumble ten steps to study
and release her
Proceed without haste
look into grandma laughing
as she dances - so light,
her heavy frame tickled with
motion and humming
At the next intersection---
six purple shades--
tenderest spring violet to
purple-black of Harpy’s seduction
Fathomless haunts---an old flame
the kitchen ruined with exploded
Chop Suey; the freak reaching
sureptitiously for my knee
in childhood’s dark theater
no pattern or solution in sight
Yet the potpourri journey calms.

 

 

 

Fog

 

Thick as Oregon’s winter
blanket this May night after snow.
I watch it crawl
across the valley,
obliterate mountain peak,
town, cattle, their barn---
complete erasure


Recent deaths
Seem so swathed. My beautiful,
hilarious, Basque friend
who made me giggle, telling
how she had to refrain from
beating her kid, so she slammed
her own head against a brick wall;


My recovering alchoholic friend---
on his final party he drained
two bourbon bottles, ruptured
his taxed stomach.
Was he lost or did he find his way home?


My childhood friend so crippled
She had live-in attendants
Sick to death of little mobility,
useless mind-bending pain pills---
she rode up to the 3rd floor,
paid help to open a window, rolled out.


Some veils lift in a new day
Some hide , murky remain

 

 

 

Riches


I sat my twisted limbs
on the silk rug’s lilies,
that seem more imperial
than the last empress’s
gluttony over one hundred
dishes gobbled for each meal.


I feel the silk factory,
smell a camphor whiff.
Astounded, I watch worms
hatch, eat mulberry leaves
brought in huge baskets


then myriad cocoons are boiled
into a cereal-looking pods’
porridge.
followed by the unraveling of threads,
dyed impossibly fantasy hues

I breath the effort into my being.
as skeins go to looms
where women,
seated on tressles
weave through
days and more days---
a thousand plus hours for an eight
by ten rug.
Back, forth; back, forth
they imagine design
incorporate new color---
forth,
back again.


I purchase a small example---
lily-strewn subtle colors
so delicate
I weep.


Now I soothe
my ruptured nerves

as I sit on the treasure,
while I struggle
to fit braces
that keep me moving.
such beauty propels me forward.

 

 

 

January 1913

 

bed, wound like a mummy.

Sometimes she moans or screams---

smells her skin seared, hair in flames.

Dolph puts the baby to her breast.

It’s God’s miracle you still have milk.

She passes out when nursing’s done.

He takes baby Rosie to another room.

In between she dreams

the stagecoach

jostling her into Cherry Creek,

that night’s wedding to Dolph Sundberg,

Swedish swain of gold hair, matching baritone,

of his glass eye---real one a mine casualty.

She sees the mine that took it, then let him go;

not before it slowly takes his lungs.

Sometimes she remembers

her Copenhagen home, sees her Danish family.

Then she smells their hot springs,

remembers swearing teamsters,

carpenters installing the redwood tank,

hauled over the Sierras to finish their spa,

the house where men can buy a meal.

She sees herself running

into the hot, but saving ditch

when she caught fire from the lantern’s

explosion, right by the Christmas tree.

She still feels lying in hot water

screaming,

as her steel corset stays melt.

Dolph rode through deep snow to Schellourne

where the doctor delivered a baby.

Meanwhile, the kids propped her up.

Around, around

Faint

Around, around

Faint

Throw up.

Pain.

Faint.

Around that hateful table where the children

forced her to keep going,

Nearer My God to Thee

scratching on the Victrola.

She misses John, Adolph, George, Polly.

Pool children with sick mother.

Doctor says they could infect

her. Only Rosie and Dolph come in.

Endless dressing changes---Dolph trying

not to hurt her.

Why has God saved me?

Agony. She prays.

Beyond her bedroom prison

family sounds go on.

Steptoe Valley, Schell and Egan ranges witness---

each day a tiny change---Miners’ laughter

from the dining room, the hot springs’

doors nearby. January, a snow-

clogged muffler,

wraped quietly on her healing.

Awake, now, she calls Dolph.

Ve must leaf here vhen I can.

All I tink here about

is flames.

 

 

 

Miners' Gardens

 

Down the gardens

up steep mountains

short lived gardens

struggle in high

summer.

Violet and pink

Canterbury bells,

delicate columbine sway

next to fat-faced dahlias

gold and red and purple.

Skinny gladiolas,

gentlemen,

bow courtly

in the breeze,

salute stock and clarkias.

Shasta daisies,

perfectly chaste ladies

converse with evening’s

Japanese

orange-bulbed lanterns

in front of Virginia creeper.

Climbing roses scale

house and fence.

Cabbage roses frame

back doors, near

delphiniums’ lanky blues concert.

Corn and squash,

radish and chard

carrot and cucumber

reward heavy fingers,

liberate them from

muck.

Manure’s so much

better.

 

 

 

Elizabeth I. Riseden was DM's first contributor to our premiere issue, which appeared over eleven years ago. In this time, Liz has passed on to a better life. Once again we remember her through her work. She remains missed.