Avatar Review
Issue 13

Poetry: Bertha Rogers


I stumbled. Dropped into the cold of old
December. Fell, and didn’t care one bit.
Wished to be wed to the coyote barking
his sorry song. Renounced all my so-far
days, straddled road’s yellow, then watched
the space where I stood vanish. Then I yawped,
Take me, not the calf so recently birthed,
not the lamb, precipitously exposed. Waited.
No word. I picked myself up; ran toward
the rogue’s cry, conceding all my martyred
tomorrows. What the hell, I laughed; and died
laughing, proof that I was in a fit state,
corroboration that my epoch had been.
Stretched out, ecstatic. I was cold, for good.


Gray rain seeps fall’s played-out
clouds; loops hills, ragged mountains;
flexes and thins cut, contoured
fields. This here-nearly parallel
to that other country’s September-
that day I, after tramping long-dead
ley lines, stared at standing stones,
smoothed weighty gray flanks,
walked right into night’s opening.

O! I was in love with hardness,
rocks tilting landscape’s greening
edge, words riven with meaning!
I thought-mindless I-that I owned
my own forever, and easily shifted
day’s quiet. Those hoisted stones
were my true grandfathers; they
held my best within storied senses,
showed in gray and grizzled faces
deep listening. I wasn’t the first,
last-how many others waited out
dying years until what they had lost
returned? How many found, in
which gouged-out uplands, rained-on
plateaus, that haggard and lonely gift?


She crosses the path,
in her mouth a mouse.
This crater at the very top
of the shrouded world is hers.
Her babes are hungry,
and the towering creatures before her falter,
so why not dawdle.
She’s shown herself
near the umbrella plants, just south
of flowers that blossom and halt.
She doesn’t know that her own footing
will vent and gush, again,
its seething green lake
drowned by exploding stone.

She steps out, hardly marking
the two women watching,
listening to the lone junco’s acrid chirp.
She’s blending,
coat flecked like lava rock.
The mouse spasms.

Note: The active volcano, 11,260 feet high, last erupted in 1963.

Learning Wild

In school, they write deer-fawn’s cloudy spots
on leaf-brown fur-blended with spring soil.
They watch blinding blue sky, brittle blades,
and the rapt, lashed eyes staring at crab apples
on weak twigs, ruminant lips hooping fruit,
blunt teeth grasping, chewing, hurrying food
past staved ribs to cold’s shrunken stomach,
fraught eyes scanning fields, treed boundaries-
then that whole body starting at the housed
dog’s bark, springing, hightailing to woods’
umber refuge. February’s covenant
holds them. Innocent, they write ice’s death,
marvelous against smooth blue morning.
The children see beauty, they know glory.

The Longest Month

Days are brindled now,
like the fox-faced dog.
No clean morning, cut night.

Nights are fitful,
dog barking at clouds,
wounded deer bleating her hurt.

Nor can she leave the haze
that holds her,
blazing pain.
She won’t be excused
until the blood clots
and the sated dog rests.