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One Poem
By Pattiann Rogers


Poet's Choice

By Robert Hass
March 7, 1999

I always seem to want it to be spring before winter is done with. I start counting it as spring, secretly, mentally, from about March 1 onward, which is not cheating in California, where in fact I start counting in mid-February, or in Washington. But I have thought of spring and gone out looking for evidence, at times, on the edges of Lake Erie and along the Iowa River and even in muddy iced-over fields in the Norfolk Broads in bitter March and in a Mexican desert in December. I was musing on this fact of my character when I came across this poem by Pattiann Rogers from her book "Eating Bread and Honey." It was published in 1997 and I'm just catching up with it. Rogers lives in Colorado. Her work has always appealed to me because she knows so much natural history, and knows it with such exuberance:

Opus From Space

Almost everything I know is glad
to be born – not only the desert orangetip,
on the twist flower or tansy, shaking
birth moisture from its wings, but also the naked
warbler nesting, head wavering toward sky,
and the honey possum, the pygmy possum,
blind, hairless thimbles of forward,
press and part.

Almost everything I've seen pushes
toward the place of that state as if there were
no knowing any other – the violent crack
and seed-propelling shot of the witch hazel pod,
the philosophy implicit in the inside out
seed-thrust of the wood-sorrel. All hairy
saltcedar seeds are single-minded
in their grasping of wind and spinning
for luck toward birth by water.

And I'm fairly shocked to consider
all the bludgeonings and batterings going on
continually, the head-rammings, wing-furors,
and beak-crackings fighting for release
inside gelatinous shells, leather shells,
calcium shells or rough, horny shells. Legs
and shoulders, knees and elbows flail likewise
against their womb walls everywhere, in pine
forest niches, seepage banks and boggy
prairies, among savannah grasses, on woven
mats and perfumed linen sheets.

Mad zealots, every one, even before
beginning they are dark dust-congealings
of pure frenzy to come to light.

Almost everything I know rages to be born,
the obsession founding itself explicitly
in the coming bone harps and ladders,
the heart-thrusts, vessels and voices
of all those speeding with clear and total
fury toward this singular honor.

"Opus from Space" by Pattiann Rogers was published in "Eating Bread and Honey" (Milkweed Editions, 1997). Copyright 1997 by Pattiann Rogers. Reprinted with permission from Milkweed Editions. Originally published in Amicus.

Robert Hass, former U.S. poet laureate, is the author, most recently, of the collection "Sun Under Wood."

© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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