the rivers of it, abridged

New York City skyline at night




Bertha Rogers

Strange Home

She woke in the rough room to light
splayed across the west wall. She heard
feet walking on wooden boards. Heard
drawers open, cutlery displaced.

She was there and not there—the sounds
commonplace, not unfriendly.
It was as if she were at home;
but was this where she lived? This strange,
new place was smaller; walls bluer,
ceiling higher. The light was wider.
Yet she was there, her body wrapped
in what was surely her own quilt.

So she pulled the covering up
to her chin and slept, again.
She woke to singing, an alien
sound, yet knew the voices were true—
the very ones she had been seeking.
And then the wind rose and took her.



The elements have forgotten themselves
again—the wind, this May, belongs to March,
and morning's frost, to October; rain stings,
like November's. And there has been snow,
the green lawns of spring sprinkled with almost
false flakes. We—actors, all of us—pretend
shock, say the wind goes right through, as if we'd
never felt this cold, this time of year.

Truly, we speak of seasons when we mean
without desire, talk of leaves only
when we require nothing. Truly, we
can't love, anymore, the look of rime.
Isn't it, then, time to leave this roaring
circle, bright ball of torment? Walk right off?


At the National Gallery, London

You walk through the great museum, come upon
the alcove where they've installed Leonardo's
"Virgin of the Rocks." It's like night in there,
but for the lit art. You, forsaken, hunger
to rest in reverence, have need of being
on your knees. There's a ray issuing from
the lady's painted face, to the child's—
the master's passion, transfigured. He might say:
Here's the miracle I've made—circumstance
explained—heaven everywhere above,
and in these faces—we its minor events,
except of course for this perfect expression
of certain love.
You, there, on the wood bench,
watched by liveried guards, silently strike
your deal with whatever made you—art not love.



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