11:2: “Teaching The Fisher Queen”, by Devon Miller-Duggan

11:2: “Teaching The Fisher Queen”, by Devon Miller-Duggan

Currents, hand me through.
I claim this passage–
We gather our skirts for this,
To run with rivers and be emptied by intuition.
I swallow rivers by what science?
I will know by what signs?
How is the air to be woven,
The wind to answer,
The light to be called,
The land to be healed?
I learn at whose hands?

Mine. Read in my roughspun face.
Know my daughters, all with child,
None immortal. One has hair that wraps
The sky. She sings. Call her Winds.
The second is silent, goes clothed
In her hair. Call her Green.
The third is voiceless, called Sands.
There are others.

I am no mother.

My thumbprint marks no belly.
No salt marks my hands.
I have no mother.
No thumbprint marks me.
No fingers have known my salt.

I require conjuring,
Knowing the power of my hair,
Taking my needs from the waves.
Instinct and intuition
Are crucible and cauldron.
I have my palms, but cannot read in them.
I dream I am an owl,
That my wings’ span
Forces the air to bear me,
That my eyes command the night
To yield my sustenance,
And the soft feathers of my neck
Are the only bed I need.

In sleep I am a dolphin,
Shearing water with my limbs,
Suckled by oceans,
Companion to the tides,
Bearer of unhearable songs.

Oceans require no science,
But something can be learned of rivers:
That the rapids lie between
Your third and fourth fingers,
The shallows are the length of your palm.

Little sister, when you are with the river
Sing it. Listen. Then
Speak to me of rivers, all
And all come from and go from me:
I am the laws in waves.
The pages roll
And in their breaking, write fresh.
And breaking, teach the rocks to sign.
And breaking, bless and bless.
My voices know the Old Tales
And tell and tell again.
The rivers come to be filled,
You come to understand.

I have followed the rivers in my hands,
Am silenced from eating oceans,
Know the weaving of air,
The beckoning of lights,
The wings and talons within my arms,
Within the arms of your daughters, my sisters,
The companionship of waves,
The verses in cauldrons.
Kings will come to me in death,
The unborn will give up their secrets,
The souls of trees and the blades of grass
Lend themselves to me.
I cannot die by water.

Devon Miller-Duggan’s poems have appeared in CutBank, The Indiana Review, Rattle, Christianity and Literature. She has won two fellowships from the Delaware Division of the Arts and the Editor’s Prize in Margie. She teaches creative writing for the University of Delaware, is married to an historian and has two grown daughters. Her first collection, Pinning the Bird to the Wall, appeared in November 2008 from Tres Chicas Books.  She says:

The original version of the poem was an attempt to put into words what it felt like to be surrounded by the “uncommon women” during my years at Mt. Holyoke College. I unearthed it recently and found it speaking to me in new ways. This is probably because I’ve been teaching a class on the Fisher King story. After several semesters of Fisher King novels and movies and poems, it felt like time for someone to write a Fisher Queen.

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