A! Magazine for the Arts

Felicia Mitchell

Felicia Mitchell

POETRY by Felicia Mitchell

March 25, 2008

In My Dreams

I never get to be the mermaid.
I'm always the woman with two feet
standing on solid ground and waving out to sea -
or maybe I'm not only waving but also not drowning,
realistic to a fault and as unimaginative as a pair of flip-flops.
No poet ever needs to save me from myself.
Still, even I have as much imagination as a fable.

If I took the flip-flops off my feet, for example,
and felt hot sand move like inspiration as I splayed my toes,
I might need to jump in the water and wash off.
I might learn what it feels like to let loose just once.

I could splash, turning or writhing, writhing or turning,
twisting my torso until nobody noticed my feet at all
but stared at the last person anybody would ever expect
letting her hair down for once and for all in salt water
until the fronds of her braid are anemones
and her nostrils gills.

I think I'd write my own poem after I recovered.
I'd hate for somebody to watch me from shore and blame alcohol
when all a woman needs, really, is a little hint of rapture
before she finds herself in way too deep and
it's time to climb back out of the ocean,
feet ready to slip-slop back into flip-flops
while all that hair, as tangled by now as seaweed,
gets ready to symbolize one thing or the other.

# # #


Felicia Mitchell says, "Students in one of my poetry workshops were reading Pablo Neruda's 'Fable of the Mermaid and the Drunks' along with Suzanne Frischkorn's 'The Mermaid Takes Issue with the Fable.' They also wrote fascinating response poems that manipulated the myth of the mermaid. I was so intrigued by their poems that I ended up having a dream about mermaids. I was just an onlooker in the dream, though, and woke up thinking, 'I never get to be the mermaid.'

"My poems tend to be inspired mostly by natural phenomena or, lately, my mother," Mitchell continues, "but I also use poetry as a lens through which I examine all kinds of things. As I grow older, I remain intrigued about the things that I do not write about as much as I watch with curiosity the things I do write about."

Mitchell has taught at Emory & Henry College since 1987. She recently spent ten days in a residency at the Virginia Center for Creative Arts to work on a manuscript of poems entitled "The Lost Language of Dragons."

Her poems have appeared widely in journals and anthologies, and her chapbook, Earthenware Fertility Figure, was a first-place winner in a Talent House (Oregon) competition. She is the author of Words & Quilts, a book of quilt art and poetry, and Her Words, a book about Appalachian women poets. She pub-lishes essays on various topics, from poetry to figs, and writes a column for the Washington County News.

# # #

In Abraham's Country

by Felicia Mitchell

What can I say about an old man

whose white Volvo survived the war

but whose ear for music did not?

On his shelf, an oud without strings

rests next to photographs of grandchildren.

In his chair, without bitterness,

he explains that his land is cursed

by that which should be its blessing.

I am a simple woman who always said

she did not believe in war. Now I know

that my beliefs were a luxury,

like a vintage Volvo.

I never saw a country torn apart,

and until this visit with this man never tasted

a musk melon savored like a blessing

after a family meal.

# # #

All Soul's Day

by Felicia Mitchell

There is garlic hanging on my doorknob,

its braided wreath a talisman of summer

that will ward off colds and vampires.

Just yesterday a man knocked at my door.

He could have been a crow.

He cawed and cawed, or talked,

I can't quite remember, and then he left.

He could have been a vampire.

He stared at my neck as if it were not old,

its flesh not hanging loose like used tissues,

but he still turned and left, cawing

while I shut the door and locked it.

Today I cut a small bulb from my wreath

and popped it in my mouth like candy.

It tasted like the dirt of summer gardens.

It tasted like a piece of homegrown garlic.

Now I have bad breath, but I'm not shivering.

I'm not shivering anymore.

# # #

Ground Hog

by Felicia Mitchell

The barn swallow flies at me

as if I am no more than cow,

no less than mortal being.

I am not unlike a blade of grass.

And the blackbird on the fence

does not fly away from me

until a crow starts cawing.

I am the sun upon my shoulders.

The ground hog drinks from a puddle,

not caring who I am, human or cow,

grass or sun, friend or mortal enemy.

It wants a drink of water.

# # #

Meet the poets featured in the April issue of A! MAGAZINE FOR THE ARTS and read their poetry by following the links below:

-- Delilah O'Haynes
-- Neva Bryan
-- Rees Shearer
-- Gretchen McCroskey
-- Benjamin Dugger
-- Warren Meredith Harris
-- David Winship
-- Henry McCarthy
-- Lena Cantrell McNicholas
-- Samuel Miller, M.D.
-- Poetry Events
-- Arts All Around: A Day Without Poetry by Barbara-lyn Morris
-- Arts for Youth Spotlight: ETSU Senior Researches Japanese Poet
-- Back to the main story by Rita Quillen
-- Jane Hicks