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Strangers
       
Hogmanay is the name for Scottish New Year. The saying is:
           “if you can remember Hogmanay,  you didn’t have a good one.”

We happened to step in step
from the bagel place,
stop to see the blue-black
blue of a Pittsburgh evening,
hear a nighthawk’s scree,
look up together, spot its
scimitar swoop and watch,
shoulders touching, sighing
in release of so much grace
and the night still coming on.
We turned, gave each other
our eyes and the light we needed,
parted with smiles and walked
away down different streets,
in those five minutes closer
than ever I was with my husband,
except for one long afternoon
on a Vancouver Island beach
where we sat side-by-side,
our children playing all around.

Telling this starts me cleaning
my house for Hogmanay.
That man in Pittsburgh
might have been first visitor,
the well of a fresh new life.
No.  First-footer should be dark,
tall, lacking imperfection, the way
my husband seemed to be.
This man was reddish, like a Norseman
come to plunder along a coast.
I would have been throwing salt,
tying twiglets with red thread.
Even ritual gifts of bread and coal
with sprigs of evergreen
could not ward off such evil.
And then there was the usquebaugh--
water of life by the dram.

My husband certainly took
the sips.  Such liquefaction
should have brought more luck.
Once started, it would rain
as though it rained upon
St. Swithin’s Day, threatening
never, ever to stop. Someone
should have put him out to
have what Swithin wanted;  rest
in a “vile, unworthy place
under the drip of eaves.”
He, too, might have been
converted. Oh well, let’s put
this house in order, let the old
year out. That red-haired man and I
can wish each other luck in the gathering
dark of Pittsburgh, then move on.
It is as good a way as any to go home.


Northern Diver

     Cry .    Now.    Loon.

Cry in the night black sky
cry rising out of north
flying over loft,
down point,
no moon to mark your passing
round, around this bay,
a rising tremble
fall of exhausted breath.

      It comes to this.

Calling the unknown name
of what you long for
now,  loon,  and tomorrow
in all the dawns
and darks to come
with none to hear you

             cry.



Leaping and Looning



Last Meals

    A rumination in the hullabaloo over a century’s ending

Make mine tea and biscuits, wheatmeal --
the English ones--right here at home.

Last summer we did not go out
for Bruce’s birthday meal and boat ride.
Small black clouds cancel more,
now we are older.  It would
have been a perfect evening run,
sun hanging a long red time
over eagle platforms, osprey roosts.

Were I to drown in that great river,
when they brought my body up
it would be hung about with eels.
Lampreys. Call them stone
suckers, for the way they move
rocks in streams, making nests.
 
Once I made a pot of Twinings
and served digestives to a long,
dreamy man.  We had very little time. 
After he went back, his mother called.
No more, she said, not again.

They say this world will end
in five billion years when
the dying sun explodes,
engulfing earth.  Other stars
have already eaten
planets near to them.
Afterwards, they belched.

 

 

All text, header photograph, and book cover copyright 2006 by Elizabeth Kincaid-Ehlers
Cover design by Lisa Ciorciari
Site design copyright 2006 by Karen McCullough

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