Abby Caplin


Teresa Feodorowna Ries, The Witch, 1895,
photo from the autobiography of the artist,
Die Sprache des Steines, 1928.

Marble Witch

      Stone! I gave you my soul— 
            Teresa Feodorowna Ries 
You, too, suffered from the war, 
endured bombs, languished behind 
chain-link fences, your face pitted
from shelling and splashed red by vandals, 
foot and nose crushed, right arm 
with scissors missing—
But I am looking at a photo of you 
from before, 1928, in Teresa’s 
autobiography, your Jewish creator 
born in 1866 and denied admission 
to Vienna’s Academy of Fine Arts.
Edmund Hellmer taught her instead, 
a win-win, as he sometimes claimed 
her work as his—The Lamp Carrier 
winning the Grand Gold Medal.
Across Europe, she showcased 
with Monet, Rodin, Renior, 
Cézanne, Klimt, Munch. But you, 
my untamable beauty—your face 
reminiscent of my friend Hanna’s, 
daughter of Holocaust survivors, 
your lips pressed together and curved 
in mischief, eyes wide from your perch, 
a naked, compact body, right hand 
aloft with shears and about to clip 
a toenail— 
your sauciness brought Teresa 
early notoriety at Künstlerhaus, 
jealous colleagues eyeing her
with Emperor Franz Joseph, 
an early sign of genius and future 
commissions, her famous bust 
of Mark Twain now lost. 
Your stone cousins still grace buildings, 
parks, museums, though in 1931, 
the Academy denied her a professorship. 
She left you for Switzerland in ’42 
after frantic years to secure your safety, 
forever sundered by her death in 1956, 
and missing, until a few young women, 
artists, tracked down her stoneless grave. 
Life defaced you both—


When the King of Junk truck backs up and into 
the driveway next door—workers chucking 
a kid’s pressboard bed, a big-ass
gas grill, a perfectly good dinette set of faux 
brown leather—I flash on Houston from a few 
years back, friends whose soggy 
and moldering home interiors lay heaped 
at the curb awaiting pickup that wouldn’t arrive 
for days, recall too last week’s Ian
sloshing water out to sea, then spilling 
forward over the rim of land, like a tubful
of kids high on sugar. It lifted ships 
from twelve miles offshore, 
slammed them into the hulls of shopping 
malls, unmooring a flotilla of merchandise 
and people in its sweep. For now, my city 
seems safe enough, for sure an illusion.
Around the corner, the local psychic
in velvet pantsuit and rose quartz between 
her breasts turns over her Open sign, 
no customers today, no predictions needed 
since 2006, when Al Gore stood on the big 
screen in front of another big screen 
of animated hurricanes moving like hellions,
one after the other across the world map.

Abby Caplin’s poems have appeared in AGNI, Midwest Quarterly, Moon City Review, Mudlark, The Opiate, Pennsylvania English, Pulp Poets Press, The Round, Spoon River Poetry Review, Stirring, and elsewhere. She is the author of A Doctor Only Pretends: poems about illness, death, and in-between (2022). Abby is a physician in San Francisco, California.

Copyright © Mudlark 2023
Mudlark Flashes | Home Page