skip to Main Content

Continuing with our special installment of the seminar on Women and AIDS which Professor Katherine Smith, Poetry Editor of Potomac Review organized for her students.

Here are a few of Elisavietta Ritchie’s poems about AIDS that she read at the Women and AIDS seminar.


For Andrew Brunnelle, potter, at 20+ diagnosed with AIDS

Dark grips us the way

a starfish clutches oysters,

the black snake swallows wrens.

Although we know the wind

extinguishes, constellations

shift, how thick the dark,

enveloped we still strike

our tiny matches to a wick

and think to lance the night.

[eleven; reprinted in The Arc of the Storm,

Signal Books, copyright 1998 Elisavietta Ritchie]

Existential Questions


Below Johns Hopkins Hospital, 2004, the street is gone:

trees, dead leaves, leaf-blowers, their noise, black bags,

ash cans, loose dogs, ants on October grass.

New questions, decisions: easy as switching the power off?

Would have been, then. Plate shards, stored pills,

penknives, forgotten scissors, smashed glass?

Yet that life force…Or dumb habit, sloth, lack of bravado,

all those unfinished tasks—and silly to skip out now

when so many are shipping out daily, unwilled.

Till the last tattle and rattle the crone, blind to her liver marks, the old man despite aches and clocks, unsolved regrets, cling or are clung to quotidian routines.

And one can’t disappoint those who wrote notes, brought sweets, sent bouquets, tried to phone. So, one does not.

For how will the book turn out?


Night Shift

A shift of light

at the edge of

earth how to catch

that rim of light

gold ring or brass

no matter light

a beacon, sign

I cannot catch

aren’t meant to catch

and still I try

and still, will try

[second section in Innisfree #5, September 2007;

in final mss for book under consideration Navigational Problems]

Back To Top