THREE POEMS by Elizabeth I. Riseden


Cruising the Yangtze
through Three Gorges I’m instructed.
Mid afternoon mist and coal haze lull me
as does the engine’s thrum.

In the ballroom, Edward and Tammy Rhodes
sit in solitary splendor at the mahogany bar.
nipped and tucked to
Svelte emaciation,
aged dolly proportions, platinum-haired Tammy
might float from her lavender
leisure wear
but diamonds weight her.
She’s smashing perfection except for the right
drooping from one too many
Perhaps Edward isn’t pleased by the eye;
he pays her no attention as diamond-
studded gestures seek more and more
notice with each drink.

They speak to no one. Replete in themselves.

Abruptly he consults his Rolex, stretches, rises,
his Harrods one piece exercise
suit, displays a fine physique
for an older man.
Expressionless,Tammy trails him.


In Xian, Mrs. Liu, the farmer’s wife
grins with odd angle teeth white
as purest alabaster.
Shy pride blooms as she tours us
through her large house,
a capitalist amazement,
immaculate, bare.
We are boarders for the night.

In the drop kitchen, dank and dismal
from pouring rain, no electricity
to light the bulb
hanging from a 1920s
twisted cord. Cold.
As we make noodles Mrs. Liu’s red sweater
warms the room as much as her smile.
With gestures, laughter, and phrase sheets
we prepare dinner.

So damp this village, I sense heat only
from the woman. Delighted
with my gifts of soup thickener
and dried berries from the
herb market, she squeezes my hand.
At the living room table, we drink
tea, leaves and all. Mr. Liu serves us,
platters of noodles,
dumplings stuffed with leeks,
flat bread full of dragon fruit,
potato pancakes, biscuit shaped pastries
light enough to float off the plate,
sliced tomatoes,
cauliflower and broccoli
in mysterious ginger sauce.
Lius eat in Mother-in-law’s bedroom. The door
opens, closes. Inside silent diners sit on beds,
with bowls, eat from a low
table with a large Lazy Susan,
respect accorded the meal and themselves.

Heard around the Planet

How will it work if we dry our tears
refuse victimhood, acknowledge
common human frailty and virtue
take up flute and cello
synchronize watches at a
moment, when we breath the beat---
a collective chuckle of tiny silver
bells; initiate a group laugh,
a crescendo, chuckle blossoming
into hearty guffaw with tympanies,
French horns, ourselves conversing?

Finale: the world’s grandest group hug?

What will terrorists do when their dirge---
fear, martyred suicide---isn’t applauded,
scorned as trite counterpoint
merely more terror, countervailing suicide?
Will they scream repeat codas, testing---
like two year olds in arrhythmic tantrums?
What if we just go on, playing, laughing?

True revolution, an end to violence’s screaming bombast.

...Elizabeth I. Riseden writes from Carson City, Nevada