Two Poems by Kristi Ellis Witt

Mud Angel 
If I go outside, away from the warmth of my house and peel these fabrics 
off my skin 
I could lie down under the gray silver sky 
between a family of oaks
and feel the soggy, cold soil beneath me 
and outstretch my arms, my legs 
into the shape of a mud angel.
Maybe making angels in mud is silly and messy
but I need to remember what silly is—messy and beautiful.
It could be a playing-after-it-rains silly
a why-would-she-do-that silly
a wondering-if-angels-visit-these-trees silly.
I’d move my limbs together, apart
together, apart.
I remember making a snow angel many Januarys ago
remember that moment and the stinging chill 
through my thick winter clothes.
Remember the childhood freedom of abandoning care
like the family of oaks who abandoned their leaves 
when I wasn’t looking.
If I make a mud angel, I’d keep moving my legs and arms to keep warm.
Get up, I’d think. But I’d stay.
I’d stay to form muddy wings. 
And it would be beautiful.
Moving, but staying, moving, but staying.
I’d be filthy and freezing, but it wouldn’t feel silly.
Because I would remember such a moment 
when I’m old—a fallen leaf when I wasn’t looking.
And my hair will be the color 
of today’s gray silver sky.

Holding Your Name
Before I knew your name
before we were asked to say your name
You were Someone.
Someone walking down the street with your hood on.
Someone sleeping in your bed.
Someone handing a cashier a 20-dollar bill.
Someone falling asleep in your car. 
Someone playing in an empty park. 
Someone jogging through a neighborhood that is not your own.
Someone driving in a neighborhood that is your own.
The names we know, all together, can fill casket upon casket.
And together with ghosts of the names unknown
are letters of your names linked together like arms, 
T’s-B’s-G’s-A’s, and R’s
Letters crammed against edges and corners and pushing to get out.
We can write your name on cardboard in fresh ink
and paint it on walls in bold shades
and gather in the streets for you
to rescue your name from the day’s headlines
and from filed reports where it was not handled with care.
And march it toward memory…
I was not prepared to know your name.
Kristi Ellis Witt

Kristi Ellis Witt began sharing her poetry and fiction publicly a few years ago and believes every community needs art in all its forms—from literary, to visual, to performing. She taught high school English in the North Bay for many years, and is an advocate for poetry and creative writing enrichment in public schools. As a poet-teacher with the California Poets in the Schools non-profit program, she’s enjoyed encouraging and guiding youth to explore writing their own poems and discovering their creative voices. She’d love for more people of all ages to realize the benefits of creating, sharing, or appreciating art. Maya Angelou said it well: “You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.” When the old excuse of having writer’s block takes hold, Kristi reminds herself there’s never really a shortage of things to write about—she finds inspiration just about anywhere, including the unique and natural beauty of Lake County where she lives.

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