Three Poems by Lori Witzel

Coscinomancy

“…when the young woman, the sorceress, took in hand some of the tarn water and spake over it words not to be understood, the fishes lifted their heads and stood up on the instant like men…”
— from The Book of the Thousand and One Nights, translated by Sir Richard F. Burton

Yes, cupped hands can make a sort of sieve, but
it’s my heart that’s a perfect fit for this oracle: it
takes both the sieve and the shears to spell out
hidden things in this way. I run on through early
dim light, feeling not seeing, atria emptying and
valves snipping shut—cut the stream, reopen for
the fill, syncopation pushing blood through the
mesh of my lungs. There are words I speak over
my jackhammering heart, this sieve and shears,
words not to be understood, not even by myself;
and when I speak them, the oracle tells me all the
names of what had been hidden inside my pulse.

by Biswarup Ganguly [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

by Biswarup Ganguly [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

         

Silhouette

I’ve been chasing light for ages. That gold-edged
blue just before the sun shimmied up? It slipped
through my fingers like a hatchling minnow. I’ve
waited in the shadows of a thunderhead to ravel
out fat skeins of crepuscular rays, only to come
home empty-handed; the light’s just too fast for
me, for anyone, really. (Once, though, I found if I
walked slower than my shadow could move, light
might press up behind me, kiss and silhouette me.)

By S S, CC BY NC ND 2.0

By S S, CC BY NC ND 2.0

         

Dowsing

I run a fingernail along that branching
witch-hazel, feeling for a thrum at every
Y. Yes, the answer comes, pick me, cut
here. My penknife slips as it bites in, and
I nick myself right at the moment I sever
branch from limb. A little blood wet on
the blade and the branch—a small give-
back to the brushy tree—and I’m almost
ready. I’ll be over there, over those hills,
walking the dry land, palms up and fingers
lightly wrapped around the Y as it calls
out down through rock, nods when the
water held in the branch is answered by
the water down below. No matter how
far off or deep, no matter how parched,
water will find water, the cut tree sings.

By gigi_nyc, CC BY NC ND 2.0

By gigi_nyc, CC BY NC ND 2.0

         

About Lori Witzel

Lori Witzel has been reading and writing poetry since she was 12, and shares poems, photography, and the occasional sketch on her blog Chatoyance. She lives in Austin, Texas with her husband and many small furry companions, and works in the software industry. Marly Youmans interviewed Lori for her blog, "The Palace at 2:00 a.m.", about Lori's various creative activities, and her passion for "the wreck of beauty." Lori also co-guest-edited the "Ekphrasis" issue of qarrtsiluni with Alison Kent. Lori was born in New York, raised in both New York and Arizona, and has lived in Texas for more than 30 years. She's currently training for her next half-marathon, which gives particular resonance to her fascination with wreckage and things that fall apart.
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