Poems by David Ritchie
Bio: Originally from Texas, David Ritchie is the Northwest Regional Vice President of the Washington Poets Association. His poetry and fiction have been widely published in the U.S. and abroad, including in Mountaineer's Magazine, The Animist, The Paumanok Review, Red River Review, Drexel University’s On-line Journal, Albany University’s Offshore Journal, BuzzWords UK, Parnassus Literary Review, BigCityLit-New York Edition, Rue Bella, and Short Stories Magazine. He lives in the San Juan Islands.
Too hot to sleep
without slashing and turning,
in search of a cool spot
in sweat-damp sheets.
In the shadowplay
reach for the moonlight
pushing through the slit
beneath the roll-down curtain
in the dark bedroom.
Too long are the intervals
as the revolving fan
returns to my face,
like a radar beam and
So the night passes,
hearing the rush of air
sweep the room
to the prosody of crickets.
Father of the Flesh
I have spent much of my life
bent into the wind
created by the power
of your self-righteousness.
How many times did you tell me
the fountain of my soul
was overflowing with sin.
I listened to the ballad of your convictions
I listened to the singing of your persuading choirs.
You told me that the expanse of your search was real.
You lectured me in the tongue
of your secret fraternity,
but the touch of your belt
to my already bleeding legs was real enough for me.
I watched you in the rivers of the south,
standing in murky waters, waiting for sinners.
These dark rivers were in stark contrast
to your floating, death-white robe.
I saw your manicured hands
dip entire bodies into the serene water,
retrieve them with false humility,
and weep the tears of the trodden.
Yes, I know you were living in a nightmare
where children played quietly on the shores of the Jordan
and souls dreaming the same dream as you
sat around a marble fountain,
joyous in the eternal city,
with a labyrinth of streets paved in gold.
But the pain you released
was as blinding as your livid, floating gown
in the brilliance of the southern sun.
My spiritual eyes were made cloudy
by your hatefulness.
It is only now that I stand erect,
without effect from your thought-image,
always there, condemning
lashing out from a pulpit.
I am not saying goodbye to you
I do not wish you to cast a small shadow
nor do I wish to hear the rustling of your regrets
I only wish you to be silent in the dark
so I may sleep.
Old, loose clothing,
a stained straw hat.
Beads of sweat trickling down
my chest like liquid insects.
Acknowledging the omen
of a mottled blue and white sky
heavy with flat-bottomed thunderheads.
Bait pail in the water, floating
between tree stumps.
heavy with green twine
tied to a red and white bobber --
motionless as a votary at prayer.
I passed-by and saw the pallor
the heavy face
and realized the precision
with which I operate
excludes the recognition
of your small and delicate pain.
Living life in effigy you make no outcry
no protest no contribution.
I moved across the earth
where the air reverberates with your stillness
and blue eyes conjured from the sky
dilate as I near.
Today I see you here alone
a familiar creature
lost in what ponies think about.
Watching you I brood about myself
as we stand apart--at your demand--
two living things wishing
to be touched by the other.
Evening comes upon us and
the shadows of cedars
finger your matted coat
urging you towards me.
I liken myself to you:
a blue-eyed pony and a blunted man.
and the distraction between us will wear away
as I come to you, and
come to you again.
Inside the little clapboard church
it must have been close to a hundred degrees.
There was not yet a full choir seated, but
those that were there were swaying,
foot to foot, with the rhythm
that was internal, that was history.
Behind the silence I could hear
the humming of those around me,
the swish of stiff dresses
as women walked down the aisle to the choir,
and the constant movement of hand-held fans
like a host of butterflies opening and closing.
The musician, an old black man
with a stark white turban,
crossed to the wounded upright, sat down,
and without a sheet of music
stabbed the ivories, infusing notes
into a dormant object. His fingers
were weapons of music.
When he touched the keys
the room became electric.
You could hear the intake of air by all those
in the hard wooden pews; preparing, praying
for strength to last the night.
The first note was magic, but when the choir
bellowed out its voice to the spiritual
hymn "Go Down Moses" the spirit
reached down into me as well.
The essence poured down and out
of the mouths of the choir and onto the people
in this old church, and they couldn’t sit down--
they couldn’t stand up--they swayed where they stood,
they shouted to Jesus while they moved,
they went into trance, falling out,
and were carried from the church.
At the end of the evening, the choir sang
quietly, and I could hear
the sobs, I could hear the joy expressed
by the congregation: amen glory to god hallelujah
Jesus is his name, until the pianist stopped, got up
and went to the choir and embraced each one.
Then the little church was empty.
Write David Ritchie at this address.
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