I am still forming,
I am not yet myself,
but I dream a lover to come—
someone who will know me
from the left side,
someone who will remember my eyes
from a place where people spoke differently,
someone who will call me
white moon and lotus,
the one who dances in my heart.
People now say what I do is dreaming,
But I say winter dreaming keeps me on earth.
We ourselves are a dream of the earth.
She filled us with her mind.
And I am dreaming a life to come
as she once dreamt mine.
Purple clouds mass along the horizon.
Sheet lightning crackles.
Black winds cut,
keen as an obsidian knife.
Out of the dark west she rides.
From the yellowing east she comes.
Her white flags fly to the north.
In the south her red fires are lit.
The rock peaks split.
and the past is laid open.
A light rain falls.
and the future rises,
vapor on her breath.
Death is real.
She speaks again
and death is not an end.
– Harriet Ann Ellenberger
Note: I wrote this poem in 1989, and it was eventually published under the title “Thunder, Perfect Mind,” a phrase I’d stolen from a translation of the Gnostic Gospels. I loved those three words put together, but felt bad about being a thief—also, the poem had nothing to do with gospels, gnostic or otherwise.
When the poem was to appear in Trivia: Voices of Feminism, I came up with a new title, “Return of Earth.” Only problem was, the earth didn’t go away so how could she return? I ignored the illogic of that because I was desperate.
Years later, climate change so extreme that everyone noticed it gave me the good title, and “In a Time of Storms” appeared in Return to Mago on 24 July 2013.
The moral of this tale of titles may be that if you live long enough, you’re no longer a voice of Cassandra, you’re simply reporting the evening news.
In place of the old dream
and the old lies,
I wish for my country of origin
a new story,
one that goes like this:
We rode roughshod,
we drove pedal to the metal,
we blew our own cylinders.
We squeezed the life from all
we could lay hands on,
converted our kill into currency,
bowed low before the greenback god we made.
Then — an inch from extinction —
in the midst of brawling, bawling,
blowing each other away,
we woke from our nightmares.
Watched the sun rise.
Said this is a good day to live.
We started to share food
and keep house.
It was astonishing
how quickly the tall-grass prairie,
intricate forest that bends with the wind,
Astonishing how quickly the milkweed pods shot up
and the monarchs laid ever more eggs on them
and the great butterfly migration strengthened.
Astonishing when legions of Canada geese flew south again,
barking and writing long flat V’s in the sky.
and the earth under our feet
decided to live.
It was that definitive,
that clear a turning.
− Harriet Ann Ellenberger, February 2012
Note: “Sunrise Over the USA” was first published, with working notes, on Return to Mago, 1 October 2012.