by Elisavietta Ritchie

Elisavietta Ritchie

1. June 1914

The Archduke is being driven
from manoeuvres
to the gala lunch.

The shuttle shoots
to the selvage
on hundreds of looms.

A watchman dreams of figs.

The plausible trajectory
has not yet met its mark.

Skinny ghosts spin
from the strings
of the village fiddler.

A cadet at attention too long
sways in the sun.
A shopkeeper counts
his coffee beans.
Flies land in bowls
of honeyed milk.

Heat and dust and blood
rise from the quays
in a furl of mosquitoes.

2. October 1979

Rain slides down
entire horizons
of onion domes,
washes spires
in darkening tears.

Cold slips inside
thin coats,
soaked shoes.

Unquiet mud oozes
over bald cobblestones,
hides shadows
of old footprints.

In the riverbank park
snowberries glow
death white.

Parapets are decked
with maroon petunias,
velvety but

the bridge is too
narrow to bear
all that history.

Magpies stalk
the wasted river
for minnows, flies,
and their own
warped reflections.

Downriver the waters
run red: perhaps effluent
from a textile mill.

Prayer unwinds from a minaret.
Tombstones crowd
within cracked walls
and rusted grilles.

In a shuttered apartment
a battered trumpet
and accordion
attempt a minuet.

On these windy quays
I also wait
at a crossroad.

Had Gavrilo Princep arrived
in this colder season
his fingers might
have shivered too much
on the trigger.

But there are always
other assassins...

Raking the Snow

Last updated August 20, 2017