Thursday 12 May 2022

Five Poems by Bertha Rogers




If spring is bequeathed to winter,

bringing forth at last warmth,

wearing a wreath in her yellow hair,

will winter wilt his own boutonniere?


I was lost to colour, which asked,

What have you brought?

What will you share?


Last summer the tomatoes

were their own offspring.

I ate their fruit delicately, like a deer,

each globe’s sheen a promise complete.


The moon came and went—

basket depleted of bounty.

The cauliflower blossomed beyond

green buds, blew up

to sunny flowers, and lost its name.


Now winter comes again,

white drifts flowers buried,

stiff beyond cold’s blowing grip.



LAST WORD                                                                                               


She walks through October as if it were her own,

as if she will find the rest she chooses, choosing him.


But the man with the black smile owns the month,

the man with upraised hand. Animals grovel at


Orpheus’s touch, go silent at his prodigious sound.

She falls, clutching the bed’s edge. Bury me


standing, she thinks, iced arms circling stars, knees

grappling October’s roots. Dress me in white,


and I will bride the night, strut my bones across

mountains, my hands a story, fingers speaking runes.


Lift me from your side, your clamorous chant.

His song stops. Angry, impatient as a god, he


rages all under earth. Wake, walk with me, he

wheedles, that I may have voice.  And out of


the grace granted the newly dead, out of pity,

Eurydice retraces her steps.  The singer turns,


laughing, and looks her in the eye one last time.





Last night’s new air indulged in a tantrum—she

believed that spring was the place to stay—spring

and its sharp, yellow-green leaves and blue breezes.


She whipped and screamed and stirred the weighted rain,

forced the grey-skinned maples to join her angry fit,

forced their arms bent and their fingers broken.


She seemed, at times to be a mobster or his moll,

all screaming mouth and stamping sleek feet.

And when she was tired of her thunder, worn out,


she changed the path to gold for a lone doe—

who had stayed safe in the dark forest, beneath

the skirts of the ancient, waiting spruces. 





The nights, though—the nights and their apparitions—

warm body in the bed, body’s legs and

feet wandering speaking floor, body’s hand

seeking, opening armoire’s door—that body


only half there, pale and shimmering somehow,

its face shifting, hemispheres swerving— 

an owl’s frown—there, by the snowed-in fence,

then vanished into trees, then back—winged picture.


My vision’s long fingers weave buttons

into matched plackets, hands tug zipper grip,

slip belt’s embossed tongue into buckle.


For the most part, I have hated the days—

long, light hours stuffed with indecision— .

But the nights, the nights, though—


stumbling echoes, half-hellos, and turns.

He turns, my gone, good husband; waves,

the last expression I hope to endure. 





Much has depended, this summer,

on my old green wheelbarrow,

the one I’ve weekly loaded up

with cuttings and trimmings—

unwanted legs and arms,

the overbearing, weedy extras,

those stems and leaves that

worked to stay, like savages,

in the only home they knew.


It wasn’t that they wanted to

show up my enslaved, perfumed

pretties—my idea of beauty,

held by the lush, proportioned

prison, its cut, green periphery.


Yet those discarded primitives,

hoisted from the hulking wheelbarrow

and tossed like corpses in the ditch,

roused themselves; they rallied,

those freed, elated escapees;

they planted their roots and seeds

among other rampant wildings.


And, all the while, they rejoiced

in their new, natural home,

far from that drumming caisson and

insistent foreigners in fancy clothes. 



Bertha Rogers's poems appear in journals and anthologies and the collections Wild, Again (Salmon, 2019); Heart Turned Back (Salmon, 2010); Even the Hemlock (Six Swans, 2005); The Fourth Beast (Snark, 2004); A House of Corners (Three Conditions, 2000); Sleeper, You Wake (Mellen, 1991); and What Want Brings: New & Selected Poems (forthcoming, Salmon, 2023). Her translation of Beowulf, the Anglo-Saxon epic, was published in 2000 (Birch Brook); her translation of the riddle-poems from the Anglo-Saxon Exeter Book, Uncommon Creatures, was published in 2019 (Six Swans). Grants received include several from NYSCA, NYFA, and other foundations. Rogers co-founded with Ernest M. Fishman Bright Hill Press & Literary Center in 1992. She has been awarded residency fellowships to artists’ colonies, among them MacDowell, Millay, Saltonstall, and Hawthornden Intl'l Writing Retreat. A Master Teaching Artist, she presents programs in schools, libraries, and other venues. Rogers has served as judge for local, regional, and NY state NEA Poetry Out Loud Contests and is a member of the selection committee for the NY Writers Hall of Fame. Her visual works have been shown in hundreds of juried and solo exhibits throughout the US and Europe and are collected in the Harry Ransom Archive at the University of Texas.





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