Whales Who Come to Tadoussac, Quebec

I remember you,
erotic poets of the sea,
surrounding the whale-watch boats,
singing.

Wind-burned,
in fog and in pain,
I sent up my silent calls to you:
O come,
O live,
O let me caress your mind.

Humans, who poisoned the waters
and set earth on fire,
you approach with song.

Teach me to do the same.

 

– Harriet Ann Ellenberger
30 July 1989, revised 4 February 2016

note: The earlier version of this poem was published in L’Évidente lesbienne, no. 17, février 1990, and in Ms. Magazine, July/August 1993.

 

War Babies

 

War babies are babies
who make war
without knowing what war is.

War babies make war
on nature,
on drugs,
on anyone who crosses them,
on each other.

War babies have guns
that are big and mean.
War babies have money
that won’t buy them more time.

War babies hit a telephone pole
at 100 miles an hour,
and expect to walk away.

War babies stay babies
because they don’t learn.

Oh look, they’re doing it again.

 

–Harriet Ann Ellenberger, 11 February 2016

 

Winter Dreaming

Dec 2005 backyard
photo by Mr. Bear, December 2005

WINTER DREAMING

I am still forming,
I am not yet myself,
but I dream a lover to come—
someone who will know me
from the left side,
someone who will remember my eyes
from a place where people spoke differently,
someone who will call me
white moon and lotus,
the one who dances in my heart.

People now say what I do is dreaming,
and useless.
But I say winter dreaming keeps me on earth.

We ourselves are a dream of the earth.
She filled us with her mind.
And I am dreaming a life to come
as she once dreamt mine.

—Harriet Ann Ellenberger, 1990

In a Time of Storms

el-reno-oklahoma-may-31-2013_camille-seaman-for-mago-poem
El Reno, Oklahoma, 13 May 2013, photograph by Camille Seaman

 

IN A TIME OF STORMS

 

Purple clouds mass along the horizon.
Sheet lightning crackles.
Black winds cut,
keen as an obsidian knife.

Out of the dark west she rides.
From the yellowing east she comes.
Her white flags fly to the north.
In the south her red fires are lit.

She speaks.
The rock peaks split.

She speaks
and the past is laid open.

She speaks.
A light rain falls.

She speaks
and the future rises,
vapor on her breath.

She speaks.
Death is real.

She speaks again
and death is not an end.

 

– Harriet Ann Ellenberger

 


Note: I wrote this poem in 1989, and it was eventually published under the title “Thunder, Perfect Mind,” a phrase I’d stolen from a translation of the Gnostic Gospels. I loved those three words put together, but felt bad about being a thief—also, the poem had nothing to do with gospels, gnostic or otherwise.

When the poem was to appear in Trivia: Voices of Feminism, I came up with a new title, “Return of Earth.” Only problem was, the earth didn’t go away so how could she return? I ignored the illogic of that because I was desperate.

Years later, climate change so extreme that everyone noticed it gave me the good title, and “In a Time of Storms” appeared in Return to Mago on 24 July 2013.

The moral of this tale of titles may be that if you live long enough, you’re no longer a voice of Cassandra, you’re simply reporting the evening news.

 

The Ones You Love

photo by Sara Wright, 26 February 2015
photo by Sara Wright, 26 February 2015

 

The Ones You Love

People you love
build a small house for you,
cover the dirt floor with hay,
hook a long chain to the cowhide
that circles your throat,
fix the chain to a stake in their yard.

In the day, the cut grasses hear you howl;
at night, they make a nest for your body.

You go nowhere.
You could lie down and die,
but someone wants you kept alive,
a cheap security system.

Years of this and then one full-moon night,
suddenly you hear them —
the motley wolf-coyote clan.
They’re calling
from the far side of the creek,
and you’re answering.

Break the chain, they say,
and you do.

– Harriet Ann Ellenberger, October 2014

Continue reading The Ones You Love

Coming Back as a Bird

I choose to be a male robin
so I can wear orangey-red feathers
and sing soul-soaring songs in spring.

I promise to work hard
on my parenting skills,
and to be a faithful mate.

As robin, I belong a proud lineage.
Small winged beings
descended from dinosaurs,
we are so good at life
that humans call us common.
Oh put away your camera, they say,
it’s only a robin.

It’s a saving grace
to fly under the human radar.

 

— Harriet Ann Ellenberger
, 17 July 2015

Crossing Over

photograph by Elizabeth Barakah Hodges
photograph by Elizabeth Barakah Hodges

When I was little,
my mother bought me a Golden Book,
and each night we read the story
that repeated the words,
“Nobody knows
but the old black crows.”

Crows know everything
because they eat everything.

Crows bring good luck,
especially in travel.

I ask it be a world-wise crow
who calls me
to the other way.

– Harriet Ann Ellenberger, 1992