Mon Père, Pépère; Ephemeral and Constant; Solitude, Six Studies
By: Deborah Rosch Eifert
Mon Père, Pépère
For I am the King of Owls. Where I float no shadow falls. I have hungers, such terrible hungers, you cannot know, Lords, I sharpen my talons on your bones. — Louise Erdrich “King of Owls”- about the mad French King Charles VI Bonebreakers. pursuers of hungers Fathers, forefathers sharpened oiled knives on whetstones blades pressed to the grinding surface sounded a grating whir– a stone dove’s flight. Fathers have a hand-grip hard and fast, bruising as talons. My fathers, forefathers more peregrine than owl, from on high their fierce plummet- dives pierced us, the prey leaving shame- tears torn bones body cavities filled with the water of sorrow. My sister of the sky, the owl calls to me in her silence especially in her silence floating cream and wood-brown plumes lofting slow soundless feathers weightless-seeming flight beneath her green grassland flows yards of verdant silk under the ribbon of the Milky Way my owl-sister glides past moon on her wings flying beyond the stone dove beyond sorrow beyond the reach of falcons.
Ephemeral and Constant
“The single quantity, time, melts into a spider web of times.” – Carlo Revelli, The Order of Time Stop at the edge of land sea foam greets dark sand listen waves a heart pulse rumbles celadon Atlantic indigo ribbons of deep current distant humpback breaches bridges water to sky Inverted bowl of black- purple night the Big Dipper glitters its silver flecks ladled time pours to earth catches in a sea urchin’s spines this light thousands of years old Throw your watchworks far out to sea feel how time flurries on the wind ephemeral and constant
Solitude, Six Studies
- after Rainer Maria Rilke I. Dusk. River birches lean against shore, branches backlit against bruise-blue sky. Poised at the twig tips, a hundred crows each tree limb ends in a slim stem bearing a single unmoving bird, a black paradise flower. II. I visit the city on the opposite coast where my grown daughter lives. Leaving, I hop on the blue bus to the airport. She walks away, head down, tugging her army surplus collar higher up, hiding tears, descendants of those that tracked my face while her yellow school bus drove away. I stare down at the transit map through a watery blur, searching for the right stop. III. When bricks crumble to mud, glass returns to sand, coins and cars fold back into earth as ore, names dissolve into unmoored sounds, then I will be whole. IV. Early evening snow is glazed, icy. White frozen banks reflect lavender, shadow pockets deep blue. A gray fox patters across a snow dune, stops, sniffs the ground in a circle, lifts her head looks deep into me. Her cat-like face empties all my deep-down self I don’t refill until dawn. V. anxious vibrations of my earthquake heart blur strangers into lollipop faces the light is the color of a tooth the air smells like burnt coffee I cannot breathe there is nowhere to go VI. God and all angels, these are the sounds of my soul: an exhaled breath before sleep, the soft plash of a seal slipping underwater, the silence of a broken pine decaying on the forest floor.
Deborah Rosch Eifert is a poet and clinical psychologist. Her poems have appeared in The Gateway Review, Persephone's Daughters and other small presses, as well as appearing in several anthologies. She was a semifinalist in the 2018 Split Rock Review Chapbook Competition, and First Runner-up in the 2018 Esthetic Apostle Chapbook Contest and was shortlisted for the Doug Draime Poetry Prize. She received an Editor's Choice Award from *fws: journal of literature & art.' She was nominated for a Pushcart Prize by the journal Constellations, named a top 100 literary journal by cliffordgarstang.com.
“Mon Père, Pépère” – I was reading the Louise Erdrich poem referenced in the epigraph, and two things came to mind. First, my father and grandfather were French madmen who behaved as despotic monarchs within the family. Second, Erdrich made the “Owl” aspect of the Mad King seem fierce and bloodthirsty. I think of falcons as having that ferocity, whereas owls seem serene, graceful, zen-like, even though they are also hunters. Bringing those elements together seemed like a way to speak about sexual abuse, violence, predation, yet also about ultimately transcending it.
“Ephemeral and Constant” –The nature of time fascinates me. In trauma survivors, the qualities of time become distorted; five minutes feels like hours during a horrifying event, but if you later dissociate, you may lose hours of time in blankness that feels like only a few minutes passed. I had been attempting to read through this dense book about the physics of time, and then I went to a small town near Mount Katahdin because I had heard the Northern Lights were going to be visible in Maine and I wanted to see them. I missed the Aurora, but the Milky Way and Big Dipper were in front of me, huge and immediate in the pristine darkness. I thought about this physics of time book and how the light that comes to us from stars left its origin an incomprehensible amount of time in the past. I visualized the Big Dipper as a ladle pouring time onto Earth from the heavens. I am not sure I can describe how the ocean elements came to the poem, except that I heard the phrase “throw your watchworks far out to sea” like dictation in my ear.
“Solitude, Six Studies” – this poem was influenced by one in Rainer Maria Rilke’s Book of Hours. In that poem, he talks about metal that is removed from the earth being enfolded back into the ground and how “then we will be whole.” I started thinking about being whole versus being fragmented into isolated pieces, which led to thinking about solitude and how there are many ways of being singular, solitary. During the period when I was having these esoteric discourses with myself, I went to the beach, to a spot in Maine known for having a lot of seals. I am really a bit obsessed with seals and selkies, and I saw a pod of seals, and then one that was lying on its side in the water, did a roll and slipped back beneath the surface seamlessly, with a very quiet ‘plash.’ I felt soul-satisfied by that sound, which led to wondering about the sounds that characterize my soul. Dividing the poem into very structured sections reflected my thoughts about isolation and fragmentation.