Sheila-Na-Gig online

Poetry

Lisa Creech Bledsoe

Watched by crows and friend to salamanders, Lisa Creech Bledsoe is a hiker, beekeeper, and writer living in the Appalachian mountains of North Carolina. Nominated for both the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net, she is the author of two books of poetry, Appalachian Ground (2019), and Wolf Laundry (2020). She has new poems out or forthcoming in Dead Mule School of Southern Literature, Chiron Review, Otoliths, and Pine Mountain Sand & Gravel, among others.

The Siren Speaks to Her Daughter Within Earshot of a Disapproving Man

Women are dangerous
with our singing voices and breasts.
Soft to touch, but dire
on our islands, our brittle cliffs and rocks.
Our names are rope and cord, entangler.
Our work is to remind you. This is your warning.

One of our urges is prophecy—
we do this as a remnant of some god’s
divine displeasure. Forget which one, a real
jackass. Nowadays we tell the future
no ticket required, easy peas.
If you don’t know yet you’ll learn soon
this joint is stuck, repeating the same
verse ad nauseam. Thus the easy futures.
In fact we keep a list to memorize
and spout for tourists.

Rarely there’s occasion to augury the old way,
to be the talon and compass. Then to hear us sing
would break your heart and kill you, just not
the way you think. Having first lulled, we eat.
But there and back our blood runs
wooly with forgetting, so to pass each way
is to be scoured clean and left for living,
adrift in a room fragrant with smoke
and rosemary.

Where’s the pearl? Under the third card,
keep your eye on that one and you’ll find
the lady and the tiger. My work is to remind you
with humming in all the throats of the sea—
you are the wide run of the horizon,
your whole skin and scales and frightening trumpets.
Soft, dire. This is your warning.

Pretty simple, telling futures. Easy as
catching a baby slick and wet from the womb.

Night Maria

From the edge of the sea came a ripple and whisper. —H. G. Wells

1.
Becalmed, she lifts leagues of black sky
but now she is all shipwreck and chasm, finished
with the bullshit and outrage, the whine of scow
and rig. Her face moves into the shape of reckoning.

Her fingers like sea stacks count growth rings
on the scales of each smelt and caplin, then
bend with terrible ease to scour away the
gold-embroidered capes with which men try to hide
her harrowed body. Brittlestars writhe
in the slick kelp of her hair.
She will not be fucking around.

There are many holy colors for darkness,
and many names for the Night Maria, made of fire
and come again in sinking and seagrit
to put the world to right.

2.
A child waits still and being changed, who wishes
for more light and fewer fears, clutching
her thousand shimmering fish called Letting Go.

So much I want to ask but don’t, slipping
closer to the dark eye of her ascendancy,
trying to fit my body to the shapes of her
that flicker from whale fall to sea lion to
plankton flowing like bees in clouds of sea-pollen.
I still remember how to breathe.

3.
Ours is a world of war,
a woman home from her second job
with two fingers of whiskey and a bellyful
of extinction. Deep night lies ahead
and also holiness unconfined to narrow
blades of light. A devotion most volatile,
shuddering up from deep-sea trenches
along subduction zones.

Grit sifts down from the ceiling
and somewhere a gas line breaks.

4.
It is not a star that collapses into a black hole
but an icy cloud, a thousand frozen oceans that
devour suns and suns and suns. This is what
it means to be wholly dark and generative—
we are being transformed.

It’s pointless to know these things
of course, but I strain to see past reckoning
to the long beauty.

5.
Scientists have been saving up lost fractions
of seconds and want to shorten the minute—
at least for one negative leap second applied
as necessary to duct tape the universe together,
hopefully.

There’s the reach and haul of oceans involved so
you could say Jimmy Buffet was right about some things.
All our dreams are in her belly. Still, your
computer’s clock has trouble believing it’s precisely
midnight for the second second in a row,
and for such a refusal the skin on the planet
crawls. We can smell something burning.

6.
Rake your coals.
As night disgorges her burdens, look for
the round dark holy mothers who can withstand fire.
Bring out your Night Marias in ashes and
green leaves, in galvanized steel buckets.
Dress in flood and offer them to your gulping sea.