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Poetry by Cheryl Della Pelle

Aurelia Field at The Longhorn Cafe

I am Aurelia Field and when I drink I drink Irish Whiskey, long and lean, and when the music stops, a hand slides down with a green paper in it, I recognize a ticket, a monetary prize for a momentary song, but not this time, this time I push the buttons, backlit neon orange and know this time the song will last beyond the last call, I hear it still, hear it? Back home the night tosses me gently on the waves of clean sheets. In my sleep I push away auburn hair reeking with smoke. Tomorrow I will wash it and remember stories told of slave ships to Connecticut and ghosts who roam Litchfield mansions, remember crooked rails and a straight ahead need to connect life to life while someone invisible sits alone, having forgotten how to speak, how to know when to say “I am here.”

The Button Box

A rusted blue harlequin, his smile faded, chipped at the corners, emblazons the top of the tin box. Before opening a good shake rattles old buttons; I know them, each one, and as the lid pops off, the smell of quiet dust drifts out; it is the attic above the back stairway that leads to boxes of books, plastic curtains that with a breath would disintegrate, and a forgotten drying rack stands naked. It is always warm in the attic, and dry, and I always know who I am there or who I was. As I sit at a child's table, on a very small chair and look out the gable window that overlooks the garden you used to tend, I cannot let it go, someplace, maybe it is here, but it doesn't have to be the last time I breathe the air of my childhood, no, I need only remember to take down your old button box, pry off the lid, select a favorite button and hold you in my hand.

When the Ravens Assemble

black feathers pour out of the sky, swoop down from crags in rock-face to take a big, black bird-shape. Raven speaks in a commanding voice gathers his tribe for a conference and tells of how the blue sky loves itself. No matter who is watching, a large female shakes out her loose feathers, and a nearby woman tidies up her house that holds her life. Two elders stride through tall grass, bow black heads together in confidence, speak about the location of a fresh deer carcass. When I walk out later, green grass holds shook feathers as thin black banners that remind me to pay attention to Raven, To take a raucous message back into myself where many worlds whirl in the great dance, where we are called to learn how to fly, and to then get on with it, fly, fly, fly.

Coming and Going

among the Trees

November wind tunnels down the fire-trail, underfoot, horse droppings mush into mud, a shot-gun blasts the nearby wood as I worry the good of my red coat. Keep walking. I spit out mantra words that pierce through chill air, some syllables fall onto shit, heel them, grind them in good know here they will grow fast. Stray seeds of prayers and faint hopes all beg for the ground, all mingle blood and water. I keep walking straight as the pines who brush a cheek, grab a pull of hair and speak so slowly, sometimes it takes all day to hear one word. They rush out green. I run a breath out. "Find the cost of freedom, buried in the ground. Mother Earth will swallow you, lay your body down." Song. Sung. Signs in the wilderness point to a life of saplings bent, stripped of tender bark from deer rubs. God help us, those itchy antlers. For a woman who keeps walking, a rapid heartbeat is only the beginning.

Sleep Flying

My hair is black as ravens feathers and my name is Ellsworth. I walk wherever I go unless I choose to fly. It is faster and how it feels, how it is, oh, this is not able to be said. You tumble over yourself as the stream tumbles over rocks. Tonight, after rising onto two feet, you will jump-fly, now. Run fast, jump and use your arms like they were wings. See. You are rising, moving up. Very good. As you come down, the ground will meet you gently, as if you are a fallen leaf. Remember this and use it wisely. You are not special, you merely know better, clearer,

The Jewelrymaker

Dear Fithian, when we met in the vineyard, under a September canopy of hardwoods, you manned a booth selling photographs shrunk and decoupaged to mylar. While curious ladies swarmed, a riotous orange maple leaf fastened to velvet fixed my eyes, I drew my fingers over the smooth surface. We bartered pin for poem, safely giving ourselves away. Your elegant hand on a thin envelope speaks of connections spoken and unspoken, conversation to pick up, the one when I said, "I paint to be color." Thought, but did not say, "One day I will roll naked across white canvas, hairs and pores picking up pigments, like a lost language. Oil paint on my breath will beg a smeary kiss skidding off onto pliant cheeks." These are things I write to you but you are not my lover so they stay here, passing my husband's eyes, who bids me to follow any trail, as long as I return to him. This is hard. The reigning in to one path. Choice shaped by familiar skin, giving enough and not enough. If I met you with red-gloved hands, how could we resist? Today I am dangerous and can smash a world to bits.

For Martha von Rohminger

A sunny porch lifts a hooded face onto last rays, I could say I am lonely, empty in a spot, I could say I miss you. No one walked through straight pines as slowly as you and holly hocks fell into your apron, clipped heads in full bloom, perfect, no breath; we sat on cracked wooden steps, young knees, bony knees, clear brown legs, freckled weathered legs, this was us, your deft hands fashioned dolls from blossoms and cast a spell over my pony-tailed head. "Laugh a lot" you said. I have tried not to waste a single petal of your wisdom, tortured and true, dug out of garden dirt

To Shoot A Coyote

You wake me with a twisted howl, not the clear hawoo that rises cleanly, A choke of torment catches my throat, eyes strain the dark room for a reason