At last the cello surrenders,
allows my deft fingers to coax from it a music
of passion and grief. I draw out fragile birds
and red hibiscus blooms and lightning that writes
your name in spiky letters across an onyx sky.
Playing on, I conjure our children, two girls
with great sheaves of light glinting
from their chestnut hair (so like yours, my love)
and then, in a minor key, a glowing shard
of moon that hurls itself over the side
of the bridge (again like you, my love) and ripples
its light like so many knife edges
across the hungry river. I own the strings,
I wield the bow with such heartbreaking ease!
I play your name again and again:
dirge, requiem, etude, sonata. I play, and watch
the waves intently for some sign of you. At last
your head rises streaming from the black water
and then your pale hand, waving to me.
And still I play on, summoning you toward me
until my fingers ache and my hand cramps
in the shape of the stringed throat.
I play on until morning and the first faint stripe
of sunlight across the empty bed.
after a photograph by George Gekas
On the old boat launch there’s a light sift
of snow, though it hasn’t yet stuck to the ground.
I like it this way, at the onset of hard weather,
caught between white and black,
its bones creaking in water that tends
toward ice, will rim itself in another month.
Across the lake, buildings wear capes of snow.
The morning feels like twilight, silent
and struck gray by winter’s whim,
a single shade for water and sky, a darker value
for the pointed heads of pines on the other side,
their green turned charcoal from this distance.
I’ve stood in this spot two hundred times
but today I see it otherwise: an unfamiliar village
rising from the water line, a place
I’ve never entered and where anything
might happen. I hear its grays
singing to mine: my long coat of gray wool,
my black boots long since scuffed to gray.
Gray gloves, gray eyes, gray mood.
Look. A breath of fog draws itself like ashen silk
across the shoulders of the houses,
though, from here, I can’t be certain
which is mine.
About the author:
Ricki Mandeville’s poems have appeared in Comstock Review, San Pedro River Review, Pea River Journal, Texas Poetry Calendar 2014, 2015, 2016, Penumbra and other journals. She is co-founder and consulting editor of Moon Tide Press and the author of A Thin Strand of Lights (Moon Tide Press). A speaker for various literary events, she lives near the ocean in Huntington Beach, California.