Monday, 24 May 2021

Five Superb Poems by Bertha Rogers



FEBRUARY, THE LONGEST MONTH

—IN THE TIME OF PLAGUE

 

Days are brindled now,

like the fox-faced dog.

No clean morning, cut-off night.

 

Nights are fitful,

her hours shift, 

like a dog on his haunches,

dog barking at clouds,

like a deer bleating her wounds.

 

Nor can the deer 

leave the haze that 

holds her blazing pain.

 

She won’t be excused

from these days until her blood

fuses with frozen ground

 

and the sated, blear-voiced dog rests.


 

WITHIN THE DRIFTED SNOW


Vole drags bound broom straws 
across her frosty floor.
She talks to the wind she can’t see, 
and she waves the whisk 
across her cold room’s reach.

 

Somewhere, in another season,
there is an open window, 
but Vole can’t catch its light.
Somewhere, there is a door, 
but she doesn’t want it. 

 

Wind leans at the glass,
pushes with his heavy blue hand. 
Wind looks in, finds only
the movement he causes, 
lift and sway of netted curtains.

 

Vole’s fingers curl round 
her brown broom stick.
Efficient whisker, she pushes 
her weapon under and past 
bits of dried purple clover.


 
Before they died, the petals
of the clover were mouths always
reaching for drink. Those who
were always thirsty now are 
withered on the winter floor.

 

Vole lets go the wooden rod.
It bangs on the icy plane 
as she reaches into the fur 
coating her shoulder blades,.
scratches at the mites who plague her.

 

While she scrapes her tender skin
Vole thinks of summer’s sun.
She considers green stems and blades.
She dreams toothy white roots, 
roots as white as new snow.

 


VISIT


You monstered out of the dark,
your storied body conjured 
by my own thought.

 

Trees heaved.
Your night waned.
You paused, colossus stopped,.
swatted sky’s silver,
swayed, waltzed,
your nailed fingers all bedazzle.
You waved, paw scorching stars.

 

Wolves sang to the moon’s face.
You turned, slapped back.

 

Then you heaved your vast shape
into shifting shadow.

 

And starlight skittered, swore 
to hold your furred secret.

 

At last, your nimble nails
pencilled the page you were, 
the story you meant to tell,
your final sleep.

 

And the trees burst, roots 
thrilling upward, pushing to meet 
you—your red, red smile.

 


FOR THE AUTISTIC CHILD

 

Rain and rain and green lawns.

Wrong time of year

for driving into clouds,

pushing down off mountains

of clarity and confusion.

 

Driving, I could drive forever— 

    drive forever— 

    boy-child’s turning body 

before my thinking eyes— 

    steering his perfectly wrong course

    flinging pencils

    as though they were warriors

    wheeling the perimeter

    blueredyellow rug

    country of dragons and pain— 

his missed milestones— 

    time of year always flawed

    always clouded 

    yet bright as the sun he sees

in a country I can’t.

    He pivots forever 

    road disappearing again and again

 

And where drive I—  

up green mountains, 

down rainy dales,

inside confused and fog-filled sky?

 


FROM EMILY 

 

EMILY’S LANDSCAPE, IN AN UNHAPPY TIME 

 

I thought I knew trees. But I never saw 

trees like these—slug-naked, crawling, thick, 

across a sharply bevelled sky, its clouds 

draped like ripped rags over the sloped shoulders 

of houses I could have sworn held hope. I

would not live in homes like these gauze horrors—

their windows promise choking winters, dreams 

of stunted ugly hills, cynical graves.

 

The trees I love show green against any 

isinglass sky, go softly grey in season; 

red, when it’s time. The mounds that own these

broken twigs recoil—affirm no feet in

sweet soil, nor reach for rain; no, these

breathless plants groan, they bulge with enmity.

 

 

EMILY, IN DECEMBER 

 

December’s lesions help me love this month, 

its bruised cold. With it I slide down into 

winter— remembrance of demons pushing 

me along every day’s concrete walls. 

 

Here I lie, waiting on recollections—

trees bending, narrowly embracing,  

poems flapping like laundry in unframed light. 




Bertha Rogers’s poems have been published in journals and anthologies; and in several collections, among them Wild, Again (Salmon, 2019); Heart Turned Back (Salmon, 2011); and Sleeper, You Wake (Mellen, 1991). What Want Brings: New and Selected Poems is her collection-in-progress. Her translation of Beowulf was published in 2000, and her translation and illuminations of the riddle-poems in the thousand-year-old Anglo-Saxon Exeter Book were published as Uncommon Creatures in 2019. She co-founded Bright Hill Press & Literary Center of the Catskills in 1992; although retired, she still teaches literary workshops and edits poetry collections for the Center and other organizations and schools. She lives on a mountain in New York’s western Catskills. 

 

 

 

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