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.
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 Vallum, Front Porch Review, Colorado Review, Yemassee, Cold Mountain Review, and elsewhere.
She is finishing a volume of poems called Going Fast.