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Five Poems, by Kathryn Rantala

Rügen Island, Day Trip

The Baltic Sea

We went looking where you had never been
where water kept us
in circus with megalithics of the Stone Age
they had centuries
we had a day

the fields ran along
excited by our bus
tossing their pale manes
assured as all recently shorn things are
of comeliness
we were a view they did nothing to get
they would not miss us
when we left

the forest was close and dark as sockets
but for narrowed light
that dropped down through
and turned into a hearth and
in a dip in the middle
a man who had nothing to say
noticed a swamp of green choke like a drained sea

trees counted us easily on their green thumbs
ignoring the one
who turned to speak to an empty seat
and the woman at the kiosk
dragging behind her
a sweater by one arm

at the chalk white cliffs
dust climbed into our cloths and ears
we could not run fast enough
to be so high
a boy collected a rock and struck flint
swans and gulls
veered from sea toward their own color
and disappeared

then we went down around
under an early moon
trees leaned
willows oaks
the scrubs we have at home
a small red berry
the bus worked hard at an edge
we could not watch
and later I heard the scrape of shoes
against a mat
and fell asleep hard against the window

“It is better” the guide said “at the next stop
to keep together”
our shade jumped on the farms
the animals the rust
while right in front of me
a man smoothed his hair
his nails leaving a soft trail
he tightened when I told him about the birds

then we were out again
and into a town with an old church
our hearts sleeping
our legs like pneumatics
our minds attentive only to
the mobile gods in the carpark
someone out of film said
“permanence is adherent sin”
a woman looked for her keys
and near a fence
a horse lay all the way down on its side

It was our longest day
in the way of doing nothing
we were happy not to be lost
we had a stone a flint a schedule
a conveyance
which must have seemed to the eclipsed
very much like wings



Easter Washington Scablands

The presence of so many

stone on stone
on stone

or the nature of the hand
makes you pick one
for your skin

a fisted rattle


Thrown inevitably
as far beyond the arm
as it can go

it arcs to the invisible

further instruction
in the wrist



Eastern Washington

Calm of short duration
rapids over rocks
stanchions sunk

paths among the apples

All waters under pressure
fold as where the sun
tips mountains

No further business for the lithe


Snow quite close now


Maryhill that way
far the Teanaway Basalts

the suck of silt spinning

behind the butte
a raw cut road

the utterances of birds
buffed for late hour listening

at night the narrow pins of stars




Heavy from the Frenchman Hills
the burned Browne’s Mountain
flecked with leaves

wind lies down
tired in a whole new place

the screen
a scraped cry
as I step out

not long

for rearrangement


the steep-walled basins
water braiding base basalt

your call after

the bright desperate day


Forced Lobelia


we stay
in his apartment in Italy
he goes out early
his mother left us lace
blessed us with coffee
the mysteries
of someone’s home

not touching anything

the bells above the tower used by Galileo
the shop to sell us eggs if we could ask

so much grace for the displaced



a patterned wall
the door
its sill several inches up

an accepted threat

the complicated spider
climbing dust and silk
to get to
real danger



a forced lobelia
in latest spring
or earlier
but after (or before)
beginning and
still looking
from a lamp
what’s next



I wanted to be
a cartographer
a conductor stonemason garden architect
each charged with aspects
and placing them
within a frame

it is cold
in the higher reaches
it doesn’t mean to be



then a second of his sons
different houses
different days
fried eggs for him
as if that were a custom of men
as natural as a ventricle

we all still know
they did that



but sometimes beauty
in its thicket
picks up something
and shows it to you
it’s best
to be on your feet
and after it


  • Kathryn Rantala is the founder and past editor of Ravenna Press. Her books include The Finnish Orchestra and Traveling with the Primates. She lives in Edmonds, Washington.

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