“For the Ophelias,” “The Greek Dance” and “A Birth of Blackbirds at Twilight”

by LaDonna Friesen

For the Ophelias

For the Ophelias

Are you one who beats her heart

With fists of rosemarys plucked

from your battered chest now

crushed in fragrant shards by

the throbbing, moaning,

ruing refrain

And will he not come again?

And will he not come again?

Oh rose of May,

You pommel the fresh-soiled wound

where your lover stabbed through your father’s heart

into yours.

Are you one who entwines grief in a wreath,

Haloing your pocked mind with crow-flowers,

Nettles, and those long purples—dead man’s fingers—

Nudging through your hair, garlanding your thoughts

with death and beauty?

Oh sweet Ophelias,

Who go down-a-down-a,

to the waters where your rosemarys will drown-a,

your bodies buried under the water are a stillborn

baptism, nothing can rise

when you breathe only tears.

Oh fair sisters, beat, beat your heart,

and mine beats with you.

Hear my minor, tremolo antiphony

In your ear, under your neck, arching

your back like a petal finding the sun,

unfurling your lilting

melody that will play on.

The Greek Dance

inspired by a Greek Orthodox festival

At the first note, the women open their hands,

not in the way one would extend a hand for shaking

but with fingers curved and palms lifted

like the Christ in their Orthodox paintings.

As one, the women shift—step, cross, bend, leap—

and I lose the single movement in the whole

round and round circling of synchronized soles

before the open arch of swaying incense.

One oiled woman with tight black curls—

her knees alternately bowing and leaping—

has muscles seasoned taut from the dance.

Her face steadies with eyes near and beyond, as though

she sees the inner self in the circle of selves to be true.

I find myself lilting toward the rhythm, crossing

my feet, falling into the circle with splayed fingers.

“Blessed be He!” I cry out with them

and realize we have said nothing, only moved

words with tripping ankles and clotted hands.

The dancer’s ear leans into my voice,

and when her outer eye fixes on mine,

I awaken to the knowing that surety is born

of imperfection and self-doubt.

I do not know the steps, but when her fingers lightly drip

mirth onto my shoulder, I draw in,

and begin to know myself in the Kalamatianós.

A Birth of Blackbirds at Twilight

View from an airport window

7:21

The clouds huff gray until their water breaks

and a flurry of dark enters the day’s birth canal.

8:15

The heavens bleed rows of pulsing crimson

like furrowed fields of fire.

8:59

Into the sky’s burning womb,

the infant comes

all at once

a vortex of birds

swing

between sky and earth,

innumerable wings expanding

and contracting

like one body,

a black funnel

spiraling to earth

then raising their dark self

to awaken the night.

9:00

A few of us closed the eyelids

of our little screens to pray

with our eyes open.

About the Author

LaDonna Friesen

Website

LaDonna Friesen received her M.A. in English from Missouri State University and has been a fulltime English professor at Evangel University in Springfield, MO for fourteen years. She has presented papers at Middle Tennessee University and Oral Roberts University. Academic publications include articles on British authors George MacDonald and C.S. Lewis. Her creative writing has been published in Epiphany, Adelaide, and Conference on Christianity and Literature, a Sage publication. She finds stories and poems in everyday life.