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The Women in Literature and Life Assembly
of
The National Council of Teachers of English
Editor:  Patricia Kelly kellyp@vt.edu
Volume 4
Fall 1995


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Premonition

by Rita Carey

This wedge of dark and sometimes light
this being with no name, no body but mine
whose lips mumble through my bones and blood,
scaring me with secrets about tomorrow, tonight

All I know is a stirring
from shoulder to shoulder
rippling over the deep caverns of this body I call my home.
Stirring

before feta salads in the Greek bistro,
before a Saturday afternoon flight,
before we come together:

you, and you, and you

not just this time, but times before
with all of you.

It means the flesh receives the real air
that stratosphere where each one who knows something true
breathes out into the night sky, making the whole starlit world turn on its neon marquees
under my wrists and down my breasts.
flashing out"wait,"
blinking out "stop,"
asking my attention.
It takes my breath to whisper-.
" something's coming."

On my way to the airport, I tell my friend:
"Something bad will happen on this trip.
God's made some plot to kill me."
A plane crash,
a reckless cabby in Reno,
a heart attack eight hundred miles from home
on the casino floor.

Something's coming.

I should know by now
it's never where I can touch
We have not kept in touch or spoken for weeks.
Too much coast to coast.
When we meet at five thousand feet, in Reno, we say we'll drive somewhere beautiful,
wind up the mountain to Tahoe.
Our bodies will wake us if we lead them
to speak on the mountain where this blue lake
lies down,
opens
undersky.
Our watery mother,
abundant,
stretching,
waiting to receive whatever is given.
Her lake spirit soft as the green goslings
webfooting her shore
where the road meets the sky.

My eyes should have seen it in the shadows the trees made
on snow drifts turned to ice
along the sunny shoulders of the road.

The soles of my feet should have felt it
on the sharp gravel beach.
Even though the lake water numbs my ankles,
later I can feel the burning for hours when I walk.

Two hours after you reel in your heart
from the bottom of the lake,
I should have said what I knew.
"You are fading. I can feel you fading across the lake
to another mountain."

By morning, in the emergency room, chills shake you so hard
the hospital gurney wobbles on its wheels.
A fever burns your face.
The way you can't sit up, or move
when the doctor unravels the stethoscope, says, "Let me listen."
I keep wondering if he will hear what I hear:
your heart still wriggling,
gnawing on the line
I cast out on the water
the evening before.

A pneumonia, he tells you.
If you'd waited, you might have died, he says.

The next night, late,
after two days like a charwoman at your bed,
I am looking through the casino for food the first time in a day.
Instead, standing among banks of slot machines,
I hear the smacking lips of that bodymouth
who told me something's coming.

I sit before a slick new machine
and in between the whirring and the ringing
the stitches around my heart come loose,
Stretched tendons snap back,
even the bonelinks break.
My knees sever in two.

seven seven seven

never in a row
little wins,
By a quarter to four in the morning,
as if I'd walked into the snow gone to ice
off the side of that road up to Tahoe,
I hypnotize myself into the night sky,
the burning stars like bright lanterns
over the hull that sinks forever into the North Atlantic.

In an interview with Eva Hart,
survivor of the Titanic,
Eva tells of her reasonable mother
whose only premonition came just before sailing.
Hysterical, now, Mrs. Hart said,
"Something dreadful's going to happen."

Below the waterline
on the starboard hull
the ice grazed the ship and gave Eva, the child sleeping in her stateroom bed,
"a slight vibration, a slight bump
like a train pulling into a station."

Forty-one degrees north, fifty degrees west
lifeboats held space for only half
the twenty-two hundred on board.
Seven hundred five survived.
After bundling his child and his wife into one of them,
Mr. Hart fell down two miles with the ship.

Eva remembers, "The most dreadful sound of all
is the sound of people drowning.
The screams.
I never closed my eyes."

"I owe my life to that premonition.
My mother, you see, sat up at night and slept during the day."

Years later, speaking of her premonition,
Mrs. Hart told her daughter,
"This dreadful something
I had to live with..."

What I heard on that drive to the airport,
in the gravel along the lake, that fading of yours to a reef on the other side
of the Sierra Nevadas:

I see shadows on the snow only when
tree branches wave across the lake
to another mountain.

The wireless operator
sending Marconigrams
in time.


RITA CAREY, Ph.D., a poet and fiction writer, lives in Port land, Oregon. She is tenured at Clark College in Vancouver, Washington, where she teaches literature, composition and fiction writing and serves as English advisor on the student literary and graphic arts magazine, Phoenix.

Copyright 1995, The Women in Literature and Life Assembly of the National Council of Teachers of English (ISSN # 1065-9080).

Reference Citation: Carey, Rita. (1995). "Premonition," WILLA, Volume IV, 8-9.


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