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.
You monstered out of the dark,
your storied body conjured
by my own thought.
Your night waned.
You paused, colossus stopped,.
swatted sky’s silver,
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—
boy-child’s turning body
before my thinking eyes—
steering his perfectly wrong course
as though they were warriors
wheeling the perimeter
country of dragons and pain—
his missed milestones—
time of year always flawed
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?
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.