Monday, August 20, 2012

A Poem by Heather Elliot


“The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.”
                                                                     -L. P. Hartley
Well I love to travel so
I’d shake pixels from my arms,
walk past the ice fishers’ shadowbox
huts on the wintered river.
I know the shape
of these armchair hills, valley palm wrapped
around the city lights.

Still, rewind the glacial shelf, let me
skirt its unfriendly coast. I’ll wash up
against my nostalgia long enough to ask

Australopithecus if she knew a word or sound
for pleasure, in sex or holding an infant or just
winding her fingers through pelts. If she ever
held a feather and stroked its silky threads.

I’d watch the crucifixion of a man
whose name history lost, for the same
reasons I walked Dachau’s iron gates
and pored postcards of lynchings; smiling woman
with the sun in her eyes. Man
in his good jacket and hat
pointing casually at what they’d done.

I’d die quickly, on a day
no one wrote about, my body too
soft, my opinions too strong.
I would judge the people
by my modern standards, lose
my historical idols
along the way. If someone painted me
or snapped a photograph, I’d look
hunted, mouth pursed like in the black
and white photographs
sprinkling Grandma’s house. Look
for me there, my shape pressed
near the frame, waving to the future.

Heather Elliott recently finished her MFA in poetry at Minnesota State University Mankato, and is currently teaching a little/writing a lot while she considers what’s next. Her work is informed by avid interest in travel (she was an English teacher in China for two years), current events, linguistics (she rationalizes her poor Chinese) and everyday life. She has been published by Terracotta Typewriter and Chamber Four Literary Magazine.

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