Two Poems

Bertha Rogers

 

[Table of Contents]
[Editor's Note]
[Masthead]
[Guidelines]
[Resources]

After the Longest Night

The sun shows a stronger light;
a song is heard
in the corners of the room.

Winter comes on, and on;
the days relinquish warmth.
I have shut
all the doors of my house
against this season.

If I hear a knock,
and hearing, rise,
it is to memory I attend—
how the feel of your fingers
warmed my skin!

If the knob turns,
if the door begins to give,
I will sit back down, I will
fold my hands in my lap.

Once I would have said,
"Here, this way";
or, "Turn, just so."
Now, other words flare
like fires on frozen ground;
my bones collect the cold.

___

Mountain Sequence: a Pantoum in Four Parts

1. December

The night wind is a slow, cold song; mean,
like a failed man. He pleads for gloves
each morning, but you can't forgive.
He slips out, among trees refusing the sun,

like a failed man. He pleads for gloves,
nostalgic flurries, warmth provided by you.
He slips out, among trees refusing the sun.
You find a new house, an old crone skirting

nostalgic flurries, warmth provided by you.
The frozen ground is stern. Wrapped in solitude,
you find a new house, an old crone skirting
your ride back to darkness. Every morning,

the frozen ground is stern. Wrapped in solitude,
the window dangles a hussy moon.
Your ride back to darkness every morning
feeds the frozen ridge. You wake hungry.

The window dangles a hussy moon.
Light enters through mountain briars,
feeding the frozen ridge. You wake hungry,
like bone-open trees, hands uncovered.

Light enters through mountain briars.
The night wind is a slow, cold song; mean,
like bone-open trees, hands uncovered
each morning. But you can't forgive.


II. January

Two jays perch, furtive and mute,
in the hawthorn. You try to credit the day
but only recognize January's high sky,
how the shadows of stones curl at your feet.

In the hawthorn you try to credit the day,
your lost faith. The drifting fields own you.
How the shadows of stones curl at your feet!
Clouds process, strung like rosaries,

your lost faith. The drifting fields own you,
the wind prying shingles from your cloister.
Clouds process, strung like rosaries.
You burrow in your flannel but your dreams,

the wind prying shingles from your cloister,
overcome, coming from the sea sky.
You burrow in your flannel but your dreams
turn the world over, and you flail,

overcome. Coming from the sea sky,
the clouds, heavy with water, with claws,
turn the world over, and you flail.
Your veins still crave autumn,

the clouds, heavy with water, with claws.
Two jays perch, furtive and mute.
Your veins still crave autumn
but only recognize January's high sky.


III. February

Leaves bleed into stone, the dying rabbit's
prints measuring her last winter, torn heart.
She stomps once, twice on the crust, blends
her scream with the blizzard's, her ragged

prints measuring her last winter, torn heart,
the murder she must suffer.
Her scream with the blizzard's; her ragged
weeping in the cold. You despise

the murder she must suffer.
Under the glare, the man pleads constancy,
weeping in the cold. You despise
his fingers; they unbutton another blouse.

Under the glare, the man pleads constancy.
The meadow surrenders; the sky sinks
his fingers. They unbutton another blouse,
memory of summer's leaning horizon.

The meadow surrenders; the sky sinks,
leaves bleed into stone—the dying rabbit's
memory of summer's leaning horizon.
She stomps once, twice, on the crust; blends.


IV. March

The deer lives in the center of the road.
The proximity of sky might be too much,
the violence of spring—green, stabbing dusk;
maples giving up blood; the lilac's knowledge.

The proximity of sky might be too much.
It may be, this is how comprehension begins—
maples giving up blood, the lilac's knowledge,
dawn's complexity, ruddy shoulders bending.

It may be, this is how comprehension begins—
the redwings returning all at once this year—
dawn's complexity, ruddy shoulders bending.
Oh, yes, I need my morning loneliness,

the redwings returning all at once this year.
I am addicted to sunrise. It is night that breaks.
Oh yes, I need my morning loneliness,
your body, absent from this too-wide bed.

I am addicted to sunrise. It is night that breaks
your unbearable, whispered words,
your body, absent from this too-wide bed.
When the moon rises, the valley forgets

your unbearable, whispered words;
the deer lives in the center of the road.
When the moon rises, the valley forgets
the violence of spring—green stabbing; dusk.

 
  ___

Bertha Rogers's poems appear in many journals and anthologies and in several collections and she has been awarded fellowships to MacDowell, Millay, and other artists' colonies. Her translation of Beowulf was published by Birch Brook Press (NY) in 2000; her poetry chapbook, A House of Corners, was also published in 2000 (Three Conditions Press, Baltimore). She was one of two US poets featured at the 2001 International Poetry Festival in Quebec. In 2002, her poem "Rhomboid" was selected as winner of the Lyric Recovery Poetry Competition by Alfred Corn. Born in Illinois and raised on a farm in northeastern Iowa, she has lived for several years on an old farm in New York's Catskill Mountain region. She believes in winter.