The Oracle on River Street
by Rachel Swirsky
She stands on the sidewalk, holding out
her hands to passersby like a collection bowl
of translucent, veined flesh.
A gunnysack dress sags around
her skinny ankles, drab and grey. Creases fold
her weary skin into an unknown geography,
rich with hills and valleys. Nestled like mountain lakes
her eyes shining and iridescent as opals.
At her feet, a paper plate marked:
"Please Give Food."
Around us, pedestrians rush
clutching lattés to mute lips, cell phones to deaf ears.
Gazes flick toward her, roll away
seeking storefronts, leaves in the gutter,
the flash of expired parking meters – anything
but the pale accusation of her eyes.
I unfold a five from my wallet.
She cups her fingers around it, like a prayer.
I want you to know who you've helped, she says.
I am an Oracle, sent by the Gods and the CIA
to rescue the earth from darkness's army.
Darkness wears six arms and many eyes
and destroys human minds with fear bursts
drizzling like rain from clawed fingers.
I alone can see their shadowed shapes.
Already, I've fought them in a hundred cities.
Beware! The final battle is coming!
She reaches for me
and I wish it were true --
that her blind eyes belonged to Teiresias
that hers were Cassandra's trembling lips
giving unseen truths the shape of words.
I wish the hordes of her imagination
would ride down from the blazing sky
that she'd leap atop that parked Porsche
swinging a parking meter like a staff
and chase the monsters back.
I wish she could be a hero.
That's who I am, she says,
I've come to save you all.
Her hands grasp mine,
skin crinkled and thin
like an ancient scroll.
I say, Thank you.
Rachel Swirsky is a Master's of Fine Arts student at the Iowa Writers
Workshop, where she studies fiction. Her poetry has appeared in
Mothering Magazine, Abyss & Apex, and Sybil's Garage, among other
magazines. She blogs about feminist issues and writing at the Aqueduct
Press blog Ambling Along the Aqueduct, and the popular feminist site
Alas, a Blog. Read more about her work at her website.
Rachel refuses to pick a favorite fruit from among kiwis, raspberries,
blackberries, and cherries. When queried, she clasped each of the
fruits to her chest... And then she ate them. (A poet quite after our own Goblinish hearts!)
Marge Ballif Simon free lances as a writer-poet-illustrator for genre and mainstream publications such as From the Asylum, Chizine, The Pedestal Magazine, Strange Horizons, Flashquake, Aeon, Vestal Review, and more. She has three collections coming for 2007: Vectors: A Week in the Death of a Planet with Charlee Jacob, Dark Regions Press, and self illustrated Like Birds in the Rain, Sam’s Dot Publications and (also self-illustrated) Night Smoke, with Bruce Boston, Kelp Queen Publications. Her self-illustrated poetry collection, Artist of Antithesis, was nominated for a Bram Stoker award in 2004. Marge is former president of the Science Fiction Poetry Association and now serves as editor of Star*Line.
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