Russalka by Deborah L. Davitt

Rising up from the water where I drowned,
remembering how my lungs burned as
fluids forced themselves in,
stole my breath—
so unfair that cold should burn

Tendrils of steam rise from my chill skin, sun-touched,
like the smoke of a funeral pyre;
I pad along the bank, crouching like a pard,
but now that I’m ice,
frost spreads in my wake, tracing its lace
over the round smoothness of stones—
water dragging me over the rocks,
fingers scrabbling for a hold,
the churn of whitewater—
how can water be so hard?

Nothing can warm me as I blink and stumble,
wondering why I still exist,
feeling the whole length of the river,
like my own spine, curving like a serpent.
I feel it freezing over,
the rapids and falls as gelid as I am.

Memory stirs like a fish
under the ice, dark and terrible—
hands pushing me in, holding me under,
cold burns hot in my lungs—
the river tearing me free,
but keeping me captive, its hostage, forever— 

But the waters owe me this much;
and with frost blooming in my steps,
snow tangling in my hair,
I follow footprints invisible to other eyes.

When they find him,
the police will wonder
how he managed to drown in bed.

Deborah L. Davitt was raised in Reno, Nevada; she received her MA in English from Penn State, where she taught rhetoric and composition before becoming a technical writer in industries including nuclear submarines, NASA, and computer manufacturing. She currently lives in Houston, Texas, with her husband and son. For more about her writing, please see

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