glowing on the hearth,
bright red cherry…
When you try to pick up cherry
sticks in you like a pin.
When God throws hailstones
you cuddle in Celia’s shawl
and press your feet on her belly
high up like a stool.
When Celia makes umbrella of her hand.
Rain falls through
big pink spokes of her fingers.
When wind blows Celia’s gown up off her legs
she runs under pillars of the bank—
great round pillars of the bank
have on white stockings too.
Celia says my father
will bring me a golden bowl.
When I think of my father
I cannot see him
for the big yellow bowl
like the moon with two handles
he carries in front of him.
(Light all about you…
ginger…pouring out of green jars…)
You don’t believe he has gone away and left his great coat…
so you pretend…you see his face up in the ceiling.
When you clap your hands and cry, grandpa, grandpa, grandpa,
Celia crosses herself.
It isn’t a dream…
It comes again and again…
You hear ivy crying on steeples
the flames haven’t caught yet
and images screaming
when they see red light on the lilies
on the stained glass window of St. Joseph.
The girl with the black eyes holds you tight,
and you run…and run
past the wild, wild towers…
and trees in the gardens tugging at their feet
and little frightened dolls
shut up in the shops
crying…and crying…because no one stops…
you spin like a penny thrown out in the street.
Then the man clutches her by the hair…
He always clutches her by the hair…
His eyes stick out like spears.
You see her pulled-back face
and her black, black eyes
lit up by the glare…
Then everything goes out.
Please God, don’t let me dream any more
of the girl with the black, black eyes.
Celia’s shadow rocks and rocks…
and mama’s eyes stare out of the pillow
as though she had gone away
and the night had come in her place
as it comes in empty rooms…
you can’t bear it—
the night threshing about
and lashing its tail on its sides
as bold as a wolf that isn’t afraid—and you scream at her face, that is white as a stone on a grave
and pull it around to the light,
till the night draws backward…the night that walks alone
and goes away without end.
Mama says, I am cold, Betty, and shivers.
Celia tucks the quilt about her feet,
but I run for my little red cloak
because red is hot like fire.
I wish Celia
could see the sea climb up on the sky
and slide off again…
I’d beg the world with you…
Celia…holding on to the cab…
hands wrenched away…
wind in the masts…like Celia crying…
Celia never minded if you slapped her
when the comb made your hairs ache,
but though you rub your cheek against mama’s hand
she has not said darling since…
Now I will slap her again…
I will bite her hand till it bleeds.
It is cool by the port hole.
The wet rags of the wind
flap in your face.
by Lola Ridge (1873-1941)
Photo by Christine Klocek-Lim.