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Pattiann Rogers


Being Accomplished


Balancing on her haunches, the mouse can accomplish
Certain things with her hands. She can pull the hull
From a barley seed in paperlike pieces the size of threads.
She can turn and turn a crumb to create smaller motes
The size of her mouth. She can burrow in sand and grasp
One single crystal grain in both of her hands.
A quarter of a dried pea can fill her palm.

She can hold the earless, eyeless head
Of her furless baby and push it to her teat.
The hollow of its mouth must feel like the invisible
Confluence sucking continually deep inside a pink flower.

And the mouse is almost compelled
To see everything. Her hand, held up against the night sky,
Can scarcely hide Venus or Polaris
Or even a corner of the crescent moon.
It can cover only a fraction of the blue moth's wing.
Its shadow could never mar or blot enough of the evening
To matter.

Imagine the mouse with her spider-sized hands
Holding to a branch of dead hawthorn in the middle
Of the winter field tonight. Picture the night pressing in
Around those hands, forced, simply by their presence,

To fit its great black bulk exactly around every hair
And every pin-like nail, fored to outline perfectly
Every needle-thin bone without crushing one, to carry
Its immensity right up to the precise boundary of flesh
But no farther. Think how the heavy weight of infinity,
Expanding outward in all directions forever, is forced,
Nevertheless, to mold itself right here and now
To every peculiarity of those appendages.

And even the mind, capable of engulfing
The night sky, capable of enclosing infinity,
Capable of surrounding itself inside any contemplation,
Has been obliged, for this moment, to accomodate the least
Grasp of that mouse, the dot of her knuckle, the accomplishment
Of her slightest intent.


Justification of the Horned Lizard


I don’t know why the horned lizard wants to live.

It’s so ugly—short prickly horns and scowling

Eyes, lipless smile forced forever by bone,

Hideous scaly hollow where its nose should be.


I don’t know what the horned lizard has to live for,

Skittering over the sun-irritated sand, scraping

The hot dusty brambles.  It never sees anything but gravel

And grit, thorns and stickery insects, the towering

Creosote bush, the ocotillo and its whiplike

Branches, the severe edges of the Spanish dagger.

Even shade is either barren rock or barb.


The horned lizard will never know

A lush thing in its life.  It will never see the flower

Of the water-filled lobelia bent over a clear

Shallow creek.  It will never know moss floating

In waves in the current by the bank or the blue-blown

Fronds of the water clover.  It will never have a smooth

Glistening belly of white like the bullfrog or a dew-heavy

Trill like the mating toad.  It will never slip easily

Through mud like the skink or squat in the dank humus

At the bottom of a decaying forest in daytime.

It will never be free of dust.  The only drink it will ever know

Is in the body of the bug.


And the horned lizard possesses nothing noble—

Embarrassing tail, warty hide covered with sharp dirty

Scales.  No touch to its body, even from its own kind,

Could ever be delicate or caressing.


I don’t know why the horned lizard wants to live.

Yet threatened, it burrows frantically into the sand

With a surprisingly determined fury of forehead, limbs

And ribs.  Pursued, it even fights for itself, almost rising up,

Posturing on its bowed legs, propelling blood out of its eyes

In tight straight streams shot directly at the source

Of its possible extinction.  It fights for itself,

Almost rising up, as if the performance of that act,

The posture, the propulsion of the blood itself,

Were justification enough and the only reason needed.


                                    -from The Tattooed Lady in the Garden


The Voice of the Precambrian Sea


During the dearth and lack of those two thousand

Million years of death, one wished primarily

Just to grasp tightly, to compose, to circle,

To link and fasten skillfully, as one

Crusty grey bryozoan builds upon another,

To be anything particular, flexing and releasing

In controlled spasms, to make boundariesreplicating

Chains, membranes, epitheliumsto latch on with power

As hooked mussels now adhere to rocky beaches;

To roll up tightly, fistlike, as a water possum,

Spine and skin, curls against the cold;

To become godlike with transformation.


And in that time one eventually wished,

With the dull swell and fall of the surf, to rise up

Out of oneself, to move straight into the violet

Billowing of evening as a willed structure of flight

Trailing feet, or by six pins to balance

Above the shore on a swollen blue lupine, tender,

Almost sore with sap, to shimmer there,

Specific and alone, two yellow wings

Like splinters of morning.


One yearned simultaneously to be invisible,

In the way the oak toad is invisible among

The ashy debris of the scrub-forest floor;

To be grandiose as deserts are grandiose

With punctata and peccaries, Joshua tree,

Saguaro and the mule-ears blossom; to be precise

As the long gleaming hairs of the gourami, swaying

And touching, find the moss and roughage

Of the pond bottom with precision; to stitch

And stitch (that dream!) slowly and exactly

As a woman at her tapestry with needle and thread

Sews each succeeding canopy of the rain forest

And with silver threads creates at last

The shining eyes of the capuchins huddled

Among the black leaves of the upper branches.


One longed to be able to taste the salt

Of pity, to hold by bones the stone of grief,

To take in by acknowledgment the light

Of spring lilies in a purple vase, five white

Birds flying before a thunderhead, to become

Infinite by reflection, announcing out loud

In one's own language, by one's own voice,

The fabrication of these desires, this day

Of their recitation.


                                    -from Splitting and Binding




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Agha Shahid Ali 09-14-07


Alice Anderson 11-16-08


Renee Ashley 04-10-2010


Christianne Balk 07-27-07


Brian Barker 07-07-07


Polina Barskova 09-13-2010


Bruce Beasley 11-22-08


Nicky Beer 09-06-2010


Nicky Beer 08-22-08


Nathaniel Bellows 04-27-09


Ciaran Berry 01-25-09


Linda Bierds 08-31-07


Kristin Bock 08-17-09


Bruce Bond 02-18-2012


John Bradley 03-12-2012


Brian Brodeur 03-29-09


Michelle Boisseau 09-20-2010 


Sophie Cabot Black 03-26-2012


Anne Caston 09-24-09


Anne Caston 02-27-2011


Elizabeth Biller Chapman 01-25-08


Nicole Cooley 04-05-09


Stephen Cramer 02-14-2011


Nicole Cuddeback 03-07-08


Steve Davenport 03-29-2010


Cortney Davis 05-03-09


Todd Davis 11-01-2010


James Dickey 03-12-2012


Stephen Dobyns 02-26-2012


Elizabeth Dodd 09-05-08


Karen Donovan 04-15-07


Mark Doty 04-11-08


Stephen Dunn 11-09-02010


Lynn Emanuel 08-30-2010


Lynnell Edwards 11-22-2010


B. H. Fairchild  09-04-09


Elyse Fenton 04-25-2011


Nick Flynn 01-28-2012


Nick Flynn 10-04-2010


Rachel Contreni Flynn 04-10-2011


Carolyn Forche 09-21-07


Carrie Fountain 03-21-2011


James Galvin 02-23-07


Margaret Gibson 01-24-10


Mary Jo Firth Gillett 02-22-08


Dana Gioia 08-23-2010


Eugene Gloria 09-20-08


Louise Gluck 03-17-2010


Kevin Goodan 08-29-08


Matthew Graham 11-28-2010


Robert Grunst 11-16-07


Bruce Guernsey 9-13-2011


Elizabeth Hadaway 06-15-07


John Haines 11-01-2011


Donald Hall 02-10-07


Sarah Hannah 11-25-2011


C. G. Hanzlicek 04-23-2012


Jeff Hardin 08-10-07


Elizabeth Haukaas 09-13-2011


Brooks Haxton 03-08-10


Seamus Heaney 09-11-09


Jamey Hecht 12-05-2010


Bob Hicok 10-25-2011



Andrew Hudgins 11-21-09


Lynda Hull 05-20-07


Henry Israeli 01-23-2011


Major Jackson 05-02-2010


Mark Jarman 10-19-08


Rodney Jones 10-26-09


Barbara Jordan 02-02-09


Ilya Kaminsky 11-18-2011


Daniel Khalastchi 8-30-2011


Brigit Pegeen Kelly 10-12-08


Jane Kenyon 04-01-07


Suji Kwock Kim 11-09-2011

 James Kimbrell 04-07-2010

James Kimbrell 01-19-07


Galway Kinnell 11-09-07


Yusef Komunyakaa 07-15-07


Phil Levine 06-03-07


Eleanor Lerman 11-02-08


Larry Levis 04-04-08


Larry Levis 02-08-2010


Lisa Lewis 02-11-2012


Sandy Longhorn 04-26-08


Corey Marks 10-03-07


Adrian Matejka 04-18-08


Davis McCombs 01-18-08


Jeffrey McDaniel 10-08-2011


Michael McGriff 02-22-09


Jay Meek 01-16-2010


Anne Michaels 01-18-09


Nils Michals 02-29-08


Keith Montesano 12-12-2010


Malena Morling 05-12-08


Simone Muench 02-08-08


Sharon Olds 02-22-07


Sharon Olds 10-19-07


Michael Ondaatje 02-01-2010


Eric Pankey 09-07-07


Gregory Pardlo 06-22-07


Ed Pavlic 09-28-07


Oliver de la Paz 02-15-2010


Lucia Perillo 12-04-09


Catherine Pierce 04-18-2011


Jon Pineda 04-09-2012


Donald Platt 02-15-08


Joshua Poteat 03-13-2011


Joshua Poteat 11-3-09


Wyatt Prunty 02-20-2011


Dean Rader 03-07-2011


Amy Randolph 03-01-09


Robert Randolph 12-12-09


Adrienne Rich 04-20-2010


Joshua Robbins 11-16-2010


David Roderick 12-07-07


Bobby C. Rogers 02-04-2012


Pattiann Rogers 3-21-08

 Steve Scafidi 10-09-09


Jim Schley 10-19-09


Tim Seibles 10-08-07


David Shumate 10-26-08


Dave Smith 04-10-09 


Katherine Soniat 01-21-2012


Katherine Soniat 11-30-07


Gary Soto 03-23-07


Mark Sullivan 08-28-09


Mathias Svalina 04-02-2012

Frank Stanford 10-25-2010

Mark Strand 02-22-2010


Mark Svenvold 03-23-09


Robert Thomas 05-03-2011


Brian Turner 05-13-07


Joshua Vinzant 01-30-2011


Tribute to Virginia Tech 04-24-07


Connie Voisine 10-1-2011


Charles Harper Webb 10-12-07


David Wevill 03-27-2011


C.K. Williams 05-25-07


Susan B.A. Somers-Willett 06-29-07


Charles Wright 01-27-07


Robert Wrigley 10-11-2010


Robert Wrigley 08-17-07


Robert Wrigley 04-09-07


Robert Wrigley 02-03-07