TWO POEMS by Ellen Wise


The islands, viewed from above, nest like a set of french curves set in a
case of faded blue plush. Sand, as it migrates, becomes the body of its
own changed shape. By skiff, we pass through winding cuts lined in a
dense, black mud pliant enough to be carved, or dissolved. Past banks
anchored by high grasses, going green to gold, to gray. The great blue
heron casts a cold eye and registers her complaint. A marsh blackbird sits
perpendicular to a reed, flaunts his bright patch, an unofficial channel
mark: red, right, returning. The shorebirds are gone. Shearwater,
oystercatcher, sandpiper, curlew. The surf scatters its scoured shells.
The last standing, cobbled-together shack on stilts leans into itself.



Last tincture of pink infuses the Marshyhope;
a trillion bugs chant lamentations to the fading day.

The current snakes away as slow as crabbers’ talk
of plumb-stem bows and counter-sterns, dead-rise destinations.

Ask an old man how his scow’s been holding up, he might say:
She’s still leaking, could use right smart of caulk,

but her engine’s still a honey, and crabs is sweet this season.
Stink of salt marsh punctuates the low tide’s loss.

A great blue, bowed among the mallows, shrugs;
her prehistoric squawk backwashes bank to muddy bank.

Legs splayed, she casts her awkward weight against the dark
as though to wedge a hatch from sliding shut.

Caught, between apricot dusk and its sly, inverted face
a brackish swamp, she doesn’t so much fly—

(broad, uneven wingbeats echo down the shallows)
                                —as kedge herself toward lightness.


ELLEN WISE has five poems set as a song-cycle by classical composer Adolphus Hailstork. Named for her title poem, Ventriloquist Acts of God, the collaborative work was performed in 2009 at the Manhattan School of Music and in Auvillar, France. She was semifinalist for the Pablo Neruda Prize in Poetry and selected as Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation Creative Fellow. Her poems have appeared in numerous literary journals. She serves as board member for Perugia Press, publisher of emerging women poets.

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