Roberta Senechal de la Roche



Do not say I wanted to lie with you

just to make an end of journeys,

to make a wave.

I could always swim to land, alone.


I could take everything you lost and more

but we have so little time to find

a transept in this storm,

what kinds of things it casts ashore,


And at landfall we must walk the dunes,

blink spindrift from our eyes

while the juggler on his dark horse behind

keeps to a polite distance,


Then put on our feather masks

and fire dance before him

while books of luminescence slowly close,

as northering sky runs out of breath.


The Crow Poem


Crows follow behind the summer haying,

stepping and bowing with their slow

deliberate corvid grace.


The blade is kind to them, yielding red

gleanings from small violence in the grass.

Not so with us,


we who try to turn aside the stroke

that ends with sounding raptor wings

praise-singing us into shadow.


In the sweat of our brow we rush

to gather in our gain, ignoring dark flocks

that rise to race the coming storm.



Bottle of Sleep


I tried to carry your bottle of sleep,

watching as you said too much

at last call, as the lights went down

as the barkeep rang it up

and you did not want

to go back home.


Devil’s got bad teeth, they say

a crooked mind, but a way

with the ladies, smooth enough

so we can sing along

through the usual burning

we earn in time.


If it was dawn in the temple,

would you still give me

those mourning hands coming up

and under, tear the veil

you said you swore by

though others surely came before?


What does it take

to make us speak in magnolia

tongues again, into sweet gum skies

with honeysuckled breath,

our feet on tender grass,

the patient worm below?


Let us now recall the sound of snow,

of glaciers spreading slow blue hands

of leviathan calling in the quiet deep,

the significance of clouds, of rain,

of what we had before the ripening

of fatal fruit, our sugared loss.



Side Effect


Try not to forget

how it goes up

what all the burning is for


Even as our best chagrin goes cold

as we follow rivers broken by stones,

by the weight of cities sick with night


on a dark planet turning

with or without us, a scuffed shoe here,

hollow bone there, a faint and muffled bell.


Is it less than the drowning

we thought we wanted

in the first place,


something soft and mordant

ripened in some corner after midnight

in a dim century?


Here is a flower for us all, heart red,

and something more than breath

than dancing, leaning into waltz


into fungus dread all white,

into the dark the deep the sweet

beloved damned night


over the tent we cannot raise again:

body to the dark, soul to the light

voices into mouths of birds.



Roberta Senechal de la Roche teaches at Washington and Lee University and lives in the woods near Free Union, Virginia.

Her poems have appeared in VallumFront Porch ReviewColorado ReviewYemasseeCold Mountain Review, and elsewhere.

She is finishing a volume of poems called Going Fast.

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