By Pattiann Rogers
Some say it’s in the reptilian dance
of the purple-tongued sand goanna,
for there the magnificent translation
of tenacity into bone and grace occurs.
And some declare it to be an expansive
desert—solid rust-orange rock
like dusk captured on earth in stone—
simply for the perfect contrast it provides
to the blue-grey ridge of rain
in the distant hills.
Some claim the harmonics of shifting
electron rings to be most rare and some
the complex motion of seven sandpipers
bisecting the arcs and pitches
of come and retreat over the mounting
Others, for grandeur, choose the terror
of lightning peals on prairies or the tall
collapsing cathedrals of stormy seas,
because there they feel dwarfed
and appropriately helpless; others select
the serenity of that ceiling/cellar
of stars they see at night on placid lakes,
because there they feel assured
and universally magnanimous.
But it is the dark emptiness contained
in every next moment that seems to me
the most singularly glorious gift,
that void which one is free to fill
with processions of men bearing burning
cedar knots or with parades of blue horses,
belled and ribboned and stepping sideways,
with tumbling white-faced mimes or companies
of black-robed choristers; to fill simply
with hammered silver teapots or kiln-dried
crockery, tangerine and almond custards,
polonaises, polkas, whittling sticks, wailing
walls; that space large enough to hold all
invented blasphemies and pieties, 10,000
definitions of god and more, never fully
Pattiann Rogers, “The Greatest Grandeur” 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)
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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every surface —
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