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By Pattiann Rogers

How confident I am it is there. Don’t I bring it,   

As if it were enclosed in a fine leather case,   

To particular places solely for its own sake?   

Haven’t I set it down before the variegated canyon   

And the undeviating bald salt dome?   

Don’t I feed it on ivory calcium and ruffled   

Shell bellies, shore boulders, on the sight   

Of the petrel motionless over the sea, its splayed   

Feet hanging? Don’t I make sure it apprehends   

The invisibly fine spray more than once?


I have seen that it takes in every detail

I can manage concerning the garden wall and its borders.

I have listed for it the comings and goings

Of one hundred species of insects explicitly described.

I have named the chartreuse stripe

And the fimbriated antenna, the bulbed thorax   

And the multiple eye. I have sketched

The brilliant wings of the trumpet vine and invented

New vocabularies describing the interchanges between rocks   

And their crevices, between the holly lip   

And its concept of itself.


And if not for its sake, why would I go

Out into the night alone and stare deliberately   

Straight up into 15 billion years ago and more?


I have cherished it. I have named it.   

By my own solicitations   

I have proof of its presence.


Pattiann Rogers, “On the Existence of the Soul” from Firekeeper: New and Selected Poems. Copyright © 1994 by Pattiann Rogers. Reprinted with the permission of Milkweed Editions.

Source: Firekeeper: New and Selected Poems (Milkweed Editions, 1994)

Poet Bio

Pattiann Rogers was born in Joplin, Missouri. She attended the University of Missouri, graduating Phi Beta Kappa, and went to the University of Houston where she earned an M.A. in creative writing. Her awards and honors also include two National Endowment for the Arts grants, a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Lannan Poetry Fellowship, Poetry’s Tietjens and Bess Hokin Prizes, the Roethke Prize from Poetry Northwest, the Strousse Award from Prairie Schooner, and four Pushcart Prizes. Rogers has taught at numerous colleges and universities as well as in high schools and kindergartens.

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