Bertha Rogers









December faces smiling beneath long-grassed ground,

all together—homing, mouths mouthing—  

Say, stay, no need to fly on ravens’ wings.


Sudden, that white-speared grin bright-rising.

(It wants brindled pinions, guide-wings,

desires other mysteries, broad-feathered fun.)


Sun’s slant spectral, snow slipping down,

whirling above evening-layered macadam.

Green red yellow blades, Solstice’s haze-change.


Shadows slide, overtake all color when the god

looses his thrice-shaped, black bolt

and autumn’s last silent space, leaning face glows


like a needled compass in a winter woods.

The lost dog dry-noses down to lost thoughts—

Do not want to leave. My heart swells.


But those black birds lift, they send every notion home.






She asked for it, said she needed charcoal,

wanted to be a great, grown-up artist.

But she was just a child, a foal.


Why? I wondered—she usually hid, child-mole,

secure only in her heart’s darkness.

She asked for it, said she needed charcoal,


burnt twigs crafted to meet the goal

of a girl intent to cradle sticks in her fist.

She was only a child, an awkward foal.


So I handed her the brittle poles,

gave over, when—yes, I admit it—I wished

she would stay a child, fenced-in foal.


She grasped the concept—knew it was her role.

She understood the risks, got the gist;

she asked for it, said she needed charcoal.


Did she want fame or fame’s role—

artist, portrayer, purveyor of wishes?

She asked for it, said she really needed charcoal—

a child, fingers rushing, stumbling, legs of a foal.






I stood among the branches

of the green ash,

yellow now, in October.

I wandered to the hackberry,

yellow too, a rusted hue.


Then I wept

in the crabapple orchard;

among the tart and baubled fruit

I tried to remember you.


But I could recall

only your eyes, your mouth—

you, Cheshire cat of my dreams.


I saw your sunset smile,

your eyes, squinting as in a mirror,

at the light,

the crowded, dying leaves.












Bertha Rogers is a poet, teaching artist, and founding director of New York’s Bright Hill Press and Literary Center. Her poems have been published in literary journals and anthologies, including Salmon Poetry’s Dogs Singing and Even the Daybreak and in collections, including Heart Turned Back (Salmon Poetry, Ireland), Sleeper, You Wake, The Fourth Beast, and A House of Corners. Her translation of the Anglo▴Saxon epic Beowulf was published in 2000; her translation of the Anglo▴Saxon Riddle▴Poems, Uncommon Creatures, Singing Things, is forthcoming. She has received grants and awards from the MacDowell Colony, the Millay Colony, Hawthornden International Retreat for Writers in Scotland, Caldera, Jentel, and others.

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