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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   

hayfield.


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   

filled, never.


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)

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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