Bertha Rogers's A House of Corners
Winner (2000): Maryland State Poetry & Literary
Available through Big City Lit editors@nycBigCityLit.com
Unlike Charles Wright, another modern Transcendentalist, Rogers does not brood on the inability to decipher the signs of the absolute in the environment. Wright feels that he is left out of heaven: "a wing brushes my right hand but it's not my wing," he laments in China Trace. For Rogers, the inversion is as acceptable as its opposite. The "real" world is only part of the truth that can be glimpsed around corners, "then stairs down, / landing that angles abruptly."
Mirrors make frequent appearances in Rogers's poems, as if to point to some parallel universe connected to ours. Which one is real, the solid world or its reflection? For Rogers, they both are.
Rogers looks at nature, views humans as nature, and looks through nature to something truer than flux. The joy she describes is not happiness, but rather, the paradoxical satisfaction gleaned from a moment of angled enlightenment.
—Diana Manister, Review Jan'01 Big City Lit, "Shades and Solids."
From My Room, Christmas Morning|
—for Robert Kipniss
The window outlooks a slope; trees configure glass.
Unruly as musicians or angels, they bother clouds,
flourish in their roots (though they seem dead
as winter they move, they move). A crow winds upwards.
Gray strains the frame and all four sides angle east,
where the outer light shows an inner firmament:
my own walls, painted in the antique manner
(marbled columns, their capitals bearing men's faces,
benign and green, pledging renewal during sleep).
The yellow desk dictates a verged space, its legs
trees to the carpet. The chair cradles a cushion.
The clock, small-faced, accountable, frets.
On the window wall, a Kipniss lithograph: a tree,
a house, part of a sky seen through an unsheathed
opening. A bed with round knobs rests inside
the still room; its left profile seen, the right,
perceived (as spring is understood, as widows weep
alone). A plant, grizzled as the crayon that drew it,
sprays past surfaces; a drawing chest holds another,
potted bush. Curtains gauze the windows. The bed
has no body to it. Beyond the room's sham supports
and scumbled sky, beyond the tyranny of pictures and
through the glass: sudden snow, a flurry from the roof.
At their heights the leaves of green men shine: golden,
grotesque. The bedclothes are mountainous,
a hazard-terrain. My back crushes the pillow but
the headboard resists. Nights of visions, and I am
becoming bed, I inhale wood; the sheets smell
of skin, I reek of walnut. I leave my sleeping place,
walk over flowers stitching summer into a woolen
earth. My body tilts from the mirror. I greet
my image. I bend to Mary, her fated morning:
Mary, Mary, Mother of God,
what O what is true?
After all, really transformed?
(First publication: Poetry New York.
Poem included in the Swetz Van Middhlar Collection
of Most Beloved Poems in Manuscript, The Netherlands
Literary Museum in The Hague, a department of the
Royal Library of the Netherlands.)