Skin Boat — To a Good Man Lost at Sea
A skin boat
Rises on the breast
Of an unswum sea
Borne on frozen waves
Yet liquid, into
The quick mercy of the tide.
In a skin boat
He rides the breathing waters,
The dusk, on a
Cold and golden sea
Where only heat is human.
In a skin boat,
He finds the homeward lights
Upon a sentient
To spill her phosphorescent sigh.
Which of us does not thus ride,
Suffering the cold,
Upon a dark tide
In a skin boat.
Answer to the River Merchant’s Wife
The new moon has risen
Three times since
I too waited at the gate.
I imagine you standing there now
Watching a hungry boatman
Climb the path from the Kiang.
Such a one came to me,
Head bowed, gazing at his straw sandals,
A letter, such as this one, in his hand
That night the geese circled
Crying blindly overhead
The deep river fog
Drifted between us
They called, one to the other,
Heavy wings laboring in the dusk
The damp shroud obscuring
Any safe resting place upon the water.
I know what it is
To be a downstream bride
You wait wondering:
Is he now passing Divination Rock,
Now Green Shoal, now Sunken Drum;
Are the “White Peonies” blooming
In Shinshi city and did he stop there?
Surely he bribed the King of the Rapids
Enough, but not too much,
And hid salt from the taxmen.
If they lost a Towman to the rocks,
Did he burn paper money for that spirit?
You wait, you light incense, as I did,
At the talk of war and more Robber Lords
Taking heads in the Lower Gorge.
I know what it is
To be a downstream bride.
This letter is in your hand now.
And the ink smudges
Your white fingers.
The River has taken your beloved.
It has taken mine.
Can you hear the wild geese cry?
Where will they rest tonight?
War (after Akhmatova)
did trees blossom
when the prisoners came home
wrens took dust baths, moths found that light
Stacy Ericson is an editor and photographer who has been writing poetry since she was a child. Her work often reflects her interest in other cultures, ancient languages and religion, and visceral passions. She says, “To me poetry is a very serious undertaking involving studying poets that have gone before, the changing styles and goals of different time periods, specific imagery, unexpected juxtapositions, and a consciousness of meter and trope. I don’t like to spell things out, but to leave room for the reader’s imagination to participate in the verse. I also make a real effort to structure line breaks so different meanings are revealed depending on the way the lines are read and joined by the reader.” Her poem “Answer to the River Merchant’s Wife” responds to Ezra Pound’s poem The River Merchant’s Wife: A Letter, itself a loose translation of the ancient Chinese poet known as Li Po. Visit Stacy’s website