Heather Altfeld

Poem Written after Being Lost in the Rice Fields

Let’s say that the fog finally began
to dismantle us, and that, wary and frantic,

we began to descend in a strange and rapid fury
on ourselves.  Let’s say that the ravine,

flooded with rainfall and loquats, now held
the dead, their heads knocked in, the water

sculpting their eyes shut and shifting
the skirts of women so that they billowed

and, from a certain angle, looked only
like beautiful laundry.  Let’s say we had

to chop the eaves for firewood, and then stood
where the wood ought to be, praying the hole of sun

would rise orange and blinking where it belonged.
We sledgehammered pellets of amber

to repatriate beetles and luna moths, but even they
crawled, confused and weary, forgetting their wings. 

Then the low sky began to snag on our rooftops
and our chimneys, and we climbed ladders

and pressed our hands upward to stop it, screaming,
but believed that it lowered and lowered,

breaking our arms, wilting our hair,
pouring over our bodies like invisible ash.  

I called to you in the darkening and said please
crush me, please be the last shadow

to close on my shivering frame, please be
what pins me down as this light is falling out of the sky

but my voice folded into the reeds
and the sandpipers squealed like knives, their flightlessness

beating helplessly against me, all of us pressed down
in our terrified startle, crying for a pinprick of light.

Author Portrait

Heather Altfeld teaches composition at California State University, Chico and at Butte Community College. She is a member of the Squaw Valley Community of Writers, and her recent/forthcoming publications include poetry in Pleiades, ZYZZYVA, Poetry Northwest, Superstition Review, Jewish Currents, The Squaw Valley Review, Clackamas, The Arroyo Review, The New Guard, The Greensboro Review, The Laurel Review, and Zone 3. She just completed her first manuscript of poems entitled The Disappearing Theatre She loves to cook, travel, and be outdoors, and she admires and collects children’s literature.

View the website of Heather Altfeld