Poetessa speaks..

Poète, scénariste et parolier....Scottish dilettante and poet. This blog has some of my current poems, as well as those of other poets I admire.

Sunday, 18 September 2011


When you feel the violence ripping

At the edge of the story ---

Of the image—

Like an old postcard, hand tinted,

That she sent, idyllic

And yet no mention of the grudges,

The dark spears – black ironwork fleur de lis on the railings.

The eyebrows raised,

The handshakes of world leaders,

Equally false.

Silent colours,

Not giving anything away.

- Rita Cummings/2011

Sea Fret at Holy Island



The Holy Isle was covered

in a sea fret --

As we came from sunny, Northumberland fields

To Lindisfarne Castle in the mist

The damp sand puddled at low tide

like Mont Saint Michel.

The green shelter on the bridge stood

empty, and markings showed

exactly where this very spot would be submerged

by the North Sea rushing in.


He said, in Northern tones

–( my mother’s tongue)--

How he remembered the North Sea coast

from childhood –

How a lovely day upon the shore could suddenly turn

cold and damp

from a sea fret –

engulfing the warm sand.


This sea fret….endless meeting of water and sky

On our crossing over to the Holy Isle

of saints and martyrs, Cuthbert, Aidan –

Seafarers for Christ.

Their effigies facing the very sea from which they came.

The church’s red granite ruins

headstones effaced by salt and mist –

a pentimento of runes and ancient hieroglyphs.

Through the narrow castle casements I could see

the distant sea and fog

Breathing -- like a wraith creeping in.


Haars in North East Scotland rush in like this:

through empty gates /

The ancient Firths of Forth & Tay enshrouded,

Sounds of fog horns -- distant and invisible.

The mist is silent, muffled

The familiar horizon disappears from view –

Travelers lose their bearings,

And ships drift ,

languorous in time.



Returning home again –

Across this narrow isthmus,

Wooden stakes rise like a giant’s causeway from the rippling sand.

We are driving through an invisible sea—

Traveling through the home of watery ghosts…


in this shiny, bulbous kelp upon an imaginary sea floor

They are slowly creeping in…


in our ears.


In this sea-fret, I am untongued--

No longer lost,

unwinged –

A sea-bell clanging

mouths the coming of high tide—

And my return from something rich and strange

Into a kind of grace ---

Into the requiem of the sea.

The endless, relentless chants of these

tides are taking me

home --

And I can hear my voice again.

© Rita Cummings 2008

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Angel of Death/RC

Death is circling in on me
with cold, dread wings.
I am standing in an open field
where the wheat has been razed
seeing only bare trees in winter.

There are the open fields of Bergen-Belsen
where the past lingers.

My shaved head a razed stubble---
I can feel the strange fear
of watching death, a quiet bird fly
into my hand.
I know the numbness that feels the
pulse of the trigger----
and the easy smell of death.

Still I wander the open fields,
my hand caressing the stubble of my hair.
I gaze at the many images of myself--
and tremble.

Death is still heavy upon me -- dark bird---
oppressive cream -- it mauls me
halfway to stasis already, its rousing breath
crushing life away.

And the dark stubble of my hair
like the field in Belsen
and the sadness, deep and lasting
of finding only empty spaces there.

Rita Cummings (1989)

Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara--

high on the Riviera,

I am surrounded by fragrance;

the garden is intense, disordered;

birds of paradise

violet and orange flames,

the Santa Ynez mountains

hazy in the distance.

The day is shimmering with

the purple jacaranda,

organge bougainvillea,

the blue and white of the harbour,

abalone boats and idle sailors on the dock,

discussing fishing laws and propositions

that measure out the boundaries of their lives;

a parasailor is pulled out to sea --

the yellow chute hovering in the distance.

Suddenly, I am in a different landscape--

the cobalt blue of the Spanish tile in the plaza,

the colours of Matisse surround me;

my emotions are becoming like the green line

that runs down the face

of the painter's wife.

- RC/1996

Twin/Rita Cummings



The She:

How she sulks this twin

Her hair matted, dull—

Her thin legs twisted.

She will not cooperate,

She is not to be trusted—

This failing other.

She is prone to cut and chop

At a whim.

How she bleeds – when will it end?

Her fingertips are dark morels,

Rooted in the dark, loamy soil of the forest floor.

They are mysterious shapes, aren’t they?

I cannot touch her.


The Other:

The other is radiant—how she dips and swells—

Elusive fire at her core—


She holds an unknown nomenclature—

Eternal words I can only guess at,

Stragglers---they will not come easy or whole.

A simulacrum of the other, her hair is long and fibrous—

She is a being of light,

Her hands are ponds into which I gaze.


She is biting into a strawberry—freshly picked

And seeing the soft, white flesh puckered, tart

Holding itself

Full of possibilities.

The tiny seeds glistening—

Like looking at someone in the mirror

And not knowing what she would become.

- RC

With eyes at the back of our heads/Denis Levertov

With eyes at the back of our heads

we see a mountain

not obstructed with woods but laced

here and there with feathery groves.

The doors before us a facade

that perhaps has no house in back of it

are too narrow, and one is set high

with no doorsill. The architect sees

the imperfect proposition and

turns eagerly to the knitter.

Set it to rights!

The knitter begins to knit.

For we want

to enter the house, if there is a house,

to pass through the doors at least

into whatever lies beyond them,

we want to enter the arms

of the knitted garment. As one

is re-formed, so the other,

in proportion.

When the doors widen

when the sleeves admit us

the way to the mountain will clear,

the mountain we see with

eyes at the back of our heads, mountain

green, mountain

cut of limestone, echoing

with hidden rivers, mountain

of short grass and subtle shadows.

I want to give something/Denise Levertov

I want to give you

something I've made

some words on a page --- as if

to say, 'Here are some blue beads?'

Or, 'Here's a bright read leaf I found on

the sidewalk' (because

to find is to choose, and choice

is made). But it's difficult

so far I've found

nothing but the wish to give. Or

copies of old words? Cheap

and cruel; also senseless:


this instead, perhaps -- a half-

promise: If

I ever write

a poem of a certain temper.