(This column was first published in the July 1, 2002 Buffalo News.)
Cascadilla Creek is a major stream that originates in the hills east of Ithaca, flows down through the city and finally empties into the south end of Cayuga Lake. The hills among which it originates have typical local-sounding names: Baker, Hungerford, Hunt, Snyder and Turkey; topped by a radio tower another is assigned the rather grandiose name, Mount Pleasant.
It is a lovely creek -- I recall passing it almost daily one summer when I taught at Cornell -- and it enjoys a delightfully euphonic name that does indeed trip lightly off the tongue.
An Ithaca poet, Zorika Petic, evidently thinks well of this stream too for she has titled a collection of her poems simply Cascadilla Creek. The 88-page volume is published by Kearsarge Mountain Books. I'm not a regular reader of poetry, but I found these verses charming and certainly befitting their attractive namesake.
Ms. Petic is an astute observer and recorder of nature in fragments like these, the first from "Child Half-Asleep on a Farmhouse Breeze":
next to my window,
their antlers of
velvet and lace....
from "Summer Morning":
Three of us chase an amber
day into the valley,
to the basswood groves....
from "Spring Marsh":
Stars and a few raindrops
swim on the marsh.
Peeper bells ride the breeze....
And from "Star Genealogy":
Bent by the north
gusts, the starry
diamond hoots of
great horned owls.
Star oceans ebb and
flow on the
outer banks of earth....
She can also construct an interesting story. Here is her "Skinny Dipping":
a friend and I skinny
dipped in a creek, because
the creek asked us to.
By a deserted railroad track.
The rumble grew closer,
and before we could modernize,
a freight train passed
The shame over nothing
we knew it and could laugh.
Louise is gone.
I can still turn to the scene
and draw from it
two young girls
in young water splashed
under a clean sky.
And here in her title poem the stream turns her thoughts inward:
On days I'm feeling modern, I throw a glance
at Cascadilla from the safety of my home.
into its life means leaving me behind,
maybe for the final trip.
Minus the shell
of thought, how do I keep from fusing
with the creek, its ripples scarcely concealing
the rainbowed yet nameless fish, the rocks
privy to millennia and still no word,
the feathery hard‑earned mud, the oak leaves
at the bottom adding their wine, the distillings
drawn as if by magnet away, until they among
countless theys merge at last with the lake.
What I found most remarkable about these beautiful poems is the fact that English is Ms. Petic's second language. Like Conrad, she embarrasses us with her ability to handle her adopted tongue. Here she tells us a little of her tragic childhood in "Going Alone to America After World War II":
A ship, or fragment of dream, carried us through
the enormous waves. Each person was alone.
My father gone, every relative except my mother;
my mother mostly gone. I sensed the divinity
that preceded green, when emptiness was its ruse....
I commend to you this lyric poet whose thoughts about nature and deep ideas are expressed in attractive and accessible verse.-- Gerry Rising
Note: Three additonal poems from Cascadilla Creek together with attractive illustrations are to be found at the Gloria Mundi Online Journal website. From there you can also find ordering information, if you choose to purchase this book through the web.