Lisa Richter Literature Poetry

The Invention of Memory

And while I may look like a prophecy-monger,
we shall confine our attention to the clump of houses
in a seaport subdivision, home to Lancelotti
the Italian abbot, a respectable and veracious man
save for his tentacle suckers, big as saucer lids.
Absolutely I am governed by sunbeams.
When death comes to dock, the living fall
under the spell of its sail. If a shadow spills
over a milk crate, your secrets will unravel in
a long silken skein at your feet. All night
I dream of Jane kissing my hands. Each kiss
is barely equal to a single speck of sleep.
A pilot and the ghost of her father discover
the lost origins of birds. Not dinosaurs
but sheep and iron bones. A princess living
under the curse of a wicked troubadour awakens
every morning to a puzzle left by Mephistopheles.
She cannot discern scarves from cabbages,
foxes from scarecrows. In a past life I was
a rainstorm that abandoned the premise
of cleansing. I was pinch, a puncture,
a compulsion. Nobody knows the superstructures
of clouds forged in breath’s absence.
Poetry is a street in Jakarta overrun
by soundless footsteps. If an opossum
thwarts at all attempts at beguiling, dip
a magpie’s wing in fermented tears.
In an open drawer, a gun twists
into a question with no answer but blood.


Lisa Richter is the author of the poetry collections Closer to Where We Began and Nautilus and Bone, winner of the 2021 Canadian Jewish Literary Award for Poetry. Her work has recently appeared or is forthcoming in The Fiddlehead, Riddle Fence, CAROUSEL, and Best Canadian Poetry 2024. She lives in Toronto.