Featured Poem II • September 2016
She rises from the water, arms raised, drops flooding from her long red hair that so recently was fluid as the river. She looks at the shore’s stoic banks still covered with withered stalks, birch weeping openly into the weir. She stares at the farmland beyond, where nothing grew last season, or the season before, the farm’s family fled. She has been too long beneath the rills. uncalled, unremembered, forgetting her old promises of much-needed rain. She pulls herself into a weeping tree. Unseen Cossacks cast their fish-hooked net, drag her out, fling her into the furrows. They call her Jew, spread her legs, leave her on the ground, far from the river. She dries from the inside out, too quick for tears. So, the farm languishes, the river disappears. So we treat our guardians, our stories, our land, our world.
Jane Yolen, often called the Hans Christian Andersen of America, admits to possibly being the Hans Jewish Andersen of America, with a love of folk and fairy tales. Her 350 books have won all kinds of awards. She’s a Grand Master of the Science Fiction Poetry Association, as well as a Grand Master of the World Fantasy Association, plus six colleges and universities have given her honorary doctorates for her writing. She also won an Arts and Humanities Award from New England Public Radio, was the first woman to give the Andrew Lang Lecture at St. Andrews University in Scotland since the series began in the 1920s, and won a NESFA Skylark Award which (alas) set her good coat on fire. So it goes…
About “Rusalka,” she writes, “By year’s end, I should have books out in the high 350s, and I am always working on new ones. One of those is a manuscript of poems about feisty girls and women of folklore and myth. The Rusalka is a Russian water spirit akin to the mermaid, and quite sexy, and her encounters with humans rarely go well for either one.”
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