A MALLARD AND THE RED SHOES
I glide through a velvet water
mirage of swirling autumnal
color. In the water, trees bleed
and shimmer. I glide through
trees, and trees are water and water
is sky. I am mallard. I am
that breathes with the wind and swims
through the undergrowth and we all
nourish each other.
Until, the shiny red comes—
twinkling through fallen leaves,
blinding me, making me forget
The red shoes—
Dorothy’s from The Wizard of Oz—
plant themselves, fairy-tale invincible,
at the brink of the riverbank. Defy
misstep with the innocent charisma
of youth, of privilege.
Bits of cider-mill donuts and white crackers
whiz through the air like confetti,
The taste of glitter and dazzle,
and my whole body
zips and pops and buzzes.
So many of us, there is not enough
and we turn on each other,
hissing and biting and flapping.
Water that, seconds before, was unity
churns into a chaos of mud and bodies,
wings and beaks and feathers.
A few blinks and
it is all gone. The sugar red vanishes,
retreats through blurred foliage.
And I wait—craving, craven.
Longing for its return, I have become
nothing. Wingless, bereft.
I ignore the internal pull
to migrate. I wait, still—
and the burnished sheen of autumn
I am dying.
I see naked branches etch
a glassy blue sky.
My mate is already dead.
Weak winter light catches glints
of his emerald brilliance, there—
where he is frozen in the hardened mud.
My mother’s feathers, the color
of earth, of rootedness, of life—
fade into the icy brown monotony.
I will die and all of my eggs
within me will die.
The red shoes treasure
the memory of creating duck joy.
The red shoes tell everyone
about the importance of sharing good fortune.
The red shoes have moved on—
to something else.
I am Emilia.
I willingly do my duties, for Desdemona.
While Othello, man-god general, blusters
and brags. And Iago ignites wounded ego
into a conflagration of villainy. I am the role
Shakespeare expertly positions so that
even the spectator hardly notices me
—until the end.
I am the caretakers, the servants, the mothers.
I am every man who toils until his body
and spirit nearly break.
I am every other insignificant cog
that keeps the machinery running.
I am the common person—overburdened,
expected to take on more and more
and still more. I am a statistic,
a tally on a rich man’s profit and loss sheet.
I have been disregarded—as little more than
a brainless animal.
I am Emilia, the villain’s whore—his spouse.
What gods and villains never guess
is that they always underestimate me.
I am Emilia—I am outrage.
When pushed to the wall for love, for dignity—
I will not be silenced. I will
shout what is truth, what is just, what is love.
When I, Emilia, finally stand up,
I need no weapon. I wrestle the hurtling
momentum of nihilism to a halt with bones
and blood, my own—even if only for a moment,
even if too late for Desdemona—
so that amid the suffocation of innocence
and my own bloody death,
the power of centuries of Iagos can be
And children can be born and nurtured,
friendships can flourish, and the earth
can be tended. And I can grow old.
Or die, yet again, in defense of truth.
the British documentary
thinks it knows you,
as if the Brontës
were next-door neighbors
or not-so-distant relatives.
It tells me the usuals:
you were passionate,
once jilted, sexual, angry—
under a veneer
of Victorian gentility;
you had to hide
your intelligence, despite
being educated by your father
equally with your brother;
after your brilliant sisters’
deaths, you repackaged
them for a shocked society,
Yet, something seems amiss
with the tone—as if
discussing quaint dilemmas
resolved long ago.
Corsets! Chamber pots!
that women still need
to hide, modify, defer
their intelligence, their
emotion, their sexuality
for fear of repercussion—
claim you for theirs.
Label you Feminist.
Your Jane Eyre—a champion
of girl power.
Is it burdensome
to be Everywoman?
To be taken out of one box
and put in another?
If I could sit beside you
on mossy granite, a view
of hill and moor and sky,
and hear your voice—
a tiny bloom of heather
in a vast undulating landscape
of eternal heather—
how would you tell me?
This, this is me, and me alone,
what only I can feel
in the splendor of this day’s
sun and storm—
despite boxes and labels,
no one will ever pass
through life exactly as I have.
And thus can I love.
And there lies
the possibility of peace.
A lovely grove
encased by crystal hypnotic
magic. On the outside—
raucousness. Faux knights
and turkey legs with ale.
Private tales of anguish
for soup in bread bowls and
Renaissance garb. Farther out,
alien cities connect—
apathy to apathy—by
monsters of superhighway.
Winged dragons circle
and wait, in rage, to retrieve
what has escaped
into the enchanted shelter of
the lovely grove—
where respite can be had
from the serpent’s curses
of grief and loss. Amid
the brisk cold, and fluttering
ribbons, birch trees and
an unusual pine.
Joy and sorrow shimmer
through leaves—chase each
other, like faeries. The birch’s
fizzing frivolity weaves
throughout the pine’s dense
magnitude. Limbs lace
together in an embrace. Yearn
skyward toward the possibility
of a crisp blue evaporation—
a kind of infinity that dragons
The lovely grove
hums with the spell of a
Renaissance ensemble. A guitar
drips tears, and a violin pleads,
and a flute’s fragility pierces
the heart. Art’s wizardry
transmutes pain into an
exquisite, sublime beauty—
a quest the eternal pilgrim
never wearies of—the hunger
to elevate terror and darkness
to something more than
oblivion. And the dragons hover,
confounded, as their prey
experiences an inconceivable
peace. The delicate
loveliness of the grove
roots itself in the consciousness
with the steely endurance of
the toughest weed. Long after
the place has been left behind,
its enchantment prods the mind.
The grove appears. Reappears.
A reminder. A talisman. A
jewel. A song about a blackbird
glides around the dragons, ululates
with sorrow, then rises above
into the cold bracing blue
—in memory of Owain Phyfe
THE DEATH OF THE PEWABIC, 1865
A prior evening, Lake Superior, August—
described as golden, bathed in light.
The shoreline—a kind of invincible majesty.
The mood—festive, like the very beginning
of a holiday season when all is still fresh
and electric. The cargo—copper, and rumors
of silver, unimaginable riches
—leisured wealth, who have naught
to do in this moment but enjoy amber
drink and cigars, whist and a string
quartet—Union soldiers, their duty
in the straits complete, jubilant at war’s
end and impending homecoming. After
sundown, as the ladies don gossamer
finery and glitter for the evening’s
impending dance, so she drapes herself
in mist—warm, but as delicate as the finest
snow or silk. As innocence and gaiety.
Smiling trinkets, the color of rose gold.
The certitude that this precipice—youth
to adulthood—is the only concern today.
The anticipation of greeting friends—the
yawning wide of the future, limitless
on the horizon, the vastness of possibility as
massive as Lake Huron unfurling before her.
And the Meteor approaches.
Steaming closer, she waves and cheers—
the cosmic fulfillment of all that boundless
wishing and forward movement. And yet,
this is the day
of the end.
A quick decision, while laughing, a turn—
and the Pewabic is sliced open by the Meteor,
and she bleeds the magnitude of all
that she carries within into the frigid
waters. The end, shockingly short—
four minutes total—and she
has disappeared. As if she never was.
And the water has closed
over her—before the idea of the end
has time to crystallize. For how can an end
be anything other than instantaneous—
even for those who survive, to cope with
continuance. They will search for evidence
—of what? Of injustice, of explanation,
of the possibility of closure—as if closure
is not simply the acceptance of
the abyss. They will search for remains
—where it was once rose gold amber flowing
unstoppable, unfathomable, and now it is not,
it is history, it is 1865, it is now
where she is lost, irretrievable, buried and held
in the dark cold waters of an unimaginable future
—and the wreckage is picked at.
Shards, detritus. Cargo eventually salvaged.
A blanket. A jacket. Burgundy boots.
Only one corpse,
of scores lost, will be recovered.
And words will be spun. While the remains
of joy—the resonance of the fizz of fireworks
wink off into the night, until they are swallowed
by the immense infinity of sky.
Tina Klimas’s poems can be found in THEMA Literary Journal, Bear River Review, The Sow’s Ear Poetry Review, Backchannels, Autumn Sky Poetry Daily, Willows Wept Review, and Glassworks Magazine. Her short fiction has also been published in several journals. She enjoys her writing life in Redford, MI where she lives with her husband and their dog.