July 14, 2019

Ellen Rachlin: Poems of Survival

Ellen Rachlin: Poems of Survival
Cannot be hit
…well maybe hit
but not marred
and if marred,
put that thought aside;
just stare at open, fast to strike
then look nowhere
but the eyes.
In spacetime,
there should be
no difference between
what opposing fighters
see and measure,
but here the arc
of a kick holds
mixed coordinates,
so it’s best to move
at all times because
moving is winning,
winning is moving;
punishment is
achieving victory.
Nearby there are always
judges, and rarely, a referee.
Rage wore itself out
on no-name turf
between opposing hills,
in the end, claiming
Crown and name —
The Battle of Hastings.
Archers, cavalry boot high in mud,
penned in by allegiance,
forest, marsh, and fallen mates
honored here with shadows
painted in cinnabar.
Below, a screaming toddler and sniping couple
square off in separate corners
of the gallery.
On a wall near a nervous guard,
a light funnels gold.
Horseman with raised mace,
child with footage gained, and 
guard on anger’s edge
carry the burden unevolved
— our capacity for rage
in its greater grandeur dressed
as heraldry on tunic and uniform — outrage.
Maybe they regretted starting this,
but there’s no chance of walking away.

Snow covers the field,
moon a haloed light,
arcs of fine grass yield
to ripples of grayish white.
Behind matted drifts and
trees the city rises;
there’s no more give and take.
One’s blood adjusts to cold,
eyes warm to ice, 
and hunger tamed enough
to bear not giving up.
Once dreams survive as voles
do so fiercely underfoot in veins
of snow not far enough from owls
who claim heaven and
control all they circle below.
Shape Shifting  
Don’t think now about what to expect—
let hope iterate its fleeting list,
inspire the chirps, the chatter. Try to
nest where commerce intersects with
commerce. Review the rules: Imagine
your success, adhere to 80/20, ask for it,
view from the customer's view
who own and decide amongst
competing species with elitist names
flocked here after miles on airplanes,
perched in wait of an opening,
first call, first choice, tallest order.
Associate of none, retreat
to your post at hotel room desk:
flick on the TV, ring the service world
for salad no dressing, an extra neck roll.
Sing unapologetic complaints,
send housekeeping fluttering.
We dare to all of our lives.

The First Snowfall  
There winter was– beyond arms’ reach
and our ability to contain it.
The instinct to curl up and weep
for the loss of beloved Fall—
as white covered end to end
the neighborhood.
And we look back
knowing it wasn’t long before
we plowed widely through
snow’s brief immunity from us.
But startled from sleep
and captured by snow, it isn’t
faith that comes first to show us out.

Ellen Rachlin is the author of Permeable Divide, Until Crazy Catches Me (Antrim House), as well as two chapbooks – Captive to Residue (Flarestack UK) and Waiting for Here (Finishing Line Press), and winner of the IBPA Benjamin Franklin Silver Award and a finalist in the New Women’s Voices series. Her poems have appeared in various journals and anthologies, including American Poetry Review, Granta, Literary Imagination, The Los Angeles Review, and The Eloquent Poem. She received her M.F.A. from Antioch. She serves as Treasurer of the Poetry Society of America and works in finance.

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