Fall 2018, Volume 24

Poetry by Robert Rothman

Wisp

Food won’t stick to my bones

she says, the woman’s figure

whittled down to girlish stick;

eighty-nine year old eyes

bright shine, tell it like a joke.

Only the Kentucky drawl,

smoky thick, tastes of aging.

She has spread out her hair

flat across her head: dried hay

not covering the ground

gone gray, given sun color

each week. I never gave her

that bottle of bourbon. I won’t

see her again next month.

Die Hard!

Like a flame buffeted by
cold wind from all sides, each
shot of air striking

at the narrow flickering
William Inglis hit by
four-pound grapeshot through

the neck into shoulder
into back bleeding a fountain
of red, staggering, refusing

to withdraw, retreat, through clenched teeth
repeated “die hard, fifty-seventh
die hard,” held against the French

in a war long forgotten; only
those words survive, mouthed by you
lifting up a body worn down

in long campaign against
an overwhelming unrelenting
foe inside that sweet sac

where so much pleasure was
where I was shot into being
where the darkness covered you.

Diptych

Like a man who has heard everything to come out
of his mouth before drags himself to the ocean into
the forty-eight-degree water, his skin burning with
the cold, heart jumping out of chest as dragged under
by the waves, pinned in the swirl of sand and foam
stumbling to shore, teeth chattering in the air
salt-flecked face and body whetted full of new words.

                              

Like a woman finished with birthing mothering wifeing
her beauty burnished to magenta-indigo-garnet of
western sky before dusk falls, what purpose these
legs fingers lips belly mind soil rich root deep not
yet through bearing progeny a goddess, self
impregnated swelling in the Indian summer, ripe
fruit as sweet and bitter as the jeweled pomegranate.

In the Abundance

You will have them all: those, shiny jagged,

others strangely rectangular, though nothing

of pure geometry exists here; piecing

into the moment, into the jigsaw, out of

your mouth as if giving birth, harbinger, like

an arrow pointing, tensed from pink wetness

of throat, notched on tongue, let loose

in the exhalation of breath, eyes following

into the future, birds at dusk winging toward

west. They will come almost unbidden, as if

longtime waiting, as if nested in the thatch

of slender branches, swaying in the humid

air, worded to occasion. Juvenescence

when the skipping and hopscotch of

laughter at the meadows green to blinding

thigh deep, sprigged with dandelions

stitched like yellow thread, a garland a carol

of singing at such day. Wherefrom and how

given, like mother’s milk into the hungry mouth

to nourish, sustain and contain through the flood

and drought. Madness never far away, hovering

like a bird of prey, waiting for the word to not come

and circuits all stop into the deadening. Given for

all circumstance and becomings. Calamity, the word

almost archaic, descending upon, biblical in the uprooting

and scattering, you a field of devastation, the charred remains as

after a forest fire when nothing left except the heat, the crack of

dead branches and bared expanse. A calm inside the

calamity, a still point of new, surveying what is now. And

then the strangest, an amity: a peacemaking, an accord, the

anger and blame at what had befallen, gone into the pained

new green first sprouting that comes after the rains falling

and falling. Search into the crevices of brain, the resilient

muscle of ventricles and atriums for that word; only mercy will do.

 

 

 

 

BIO: Robert Rothman lives in Northern California.  His work has appeared in the Atlanta Review, The Alembic, Existere, the Meridian Anthology of Contemporary Poetry, Westview, Willow Review. http:// www.robertrothmanpoet.com.