To console myself, I wander
wing to wing in the orangery,
slip between twisted limbs,
olives’ silver and green. The air here
whisks so convincingly, I can’t believe
there’s a rock partition keeping me
safe from the pinked-out sky.
In Gethsemane—that ancient, other world—
they say the Virgin Mary
is buried in a similar grove.
They say any rock is agony. They say her grief
was deeper than those roots
(the oldest known on Earth).
Our own carbon dates us. If I could cut
myself open, you’d see rings
lapping more rings: my mother
crying for her mother in the same
way her mother wept for hers.
You’d see the silvery orbit,
where each life dissolved.
But for now, I remain
human. I am a nesting doll for griefs.
Even in utopia, there is suffering:
one sheep forced to walk
the labyrinth, ensuring the grass
regenerates. And my young daughter,
her legs thin as reeds,
chased and caught and pushed by
the boys again. Her layers stripped away.
Not even the olive he wedged
under her tongue
could hold her, clot those cries—
these shepherds, they think of nothing but
what might wake this weak blue soil.
Elizabeth Lindsey Rogers’s debut poetry collection, Chord Box (University of Arkansas Press, 2013), was a finalist for the 2014 Lambda Literary Award. Her poems appear in The Missouri Review, Boston Review, FIELD, AGNI Online, Washington Square Review, Crazyhorse, and others. Her nonfiction has appeared in The Rumpus. She was a 2012-2014 Kenyon Review Fellow, and now lives in New Orleans, where she teaches at Tulane University.
Feature image by David Benjamin Sherry, Self Portrait as the Born Feeling Beings, 2009. Traditional color photograph, 30 x 40 in.
Click on the image to enlarge.