by Bobby Rogers

To be heard in this house we must say the words as though cutting them
into polished stone, phrasings hewn to resist what the night will do. Even at this hour
the table lamp's bulb can scribe only a loose circle on the floor, its yellow light
pushing against the corner shadows, the slurred last note of a one-note work song.
Everything has a voice. Words fly from us sharp as marble chips, and a fine dust settles
on the toe moldings and window trim. If we move with enough care we can live here
for years and stir nothing at all. The tops of the picture frames wear a velveteen husk
of dusty apology--a gloved finger would peel up a story I told you one night in August.
The few things I am sure of must be said as quarter notes, an iteration so slow
it will become hard to recall the first faltering word where the sentence began, back
when you were still listening. This city is never quite. At midnight, every night,
the cargo planes begin their scream and strain, somehow shrugging their way clear
of the black earth. It is hard to tell when the sound of one plane is gone and another
takes its place. God knows where they will set down again. I believe there is no erasing
what is said, even if it goes unheard and unheeded. The words will gather
somewhere. It's hard enough to know what we mean to say, and that isn't the half
of saying it. To find what is speakable in my heart will take all night. The best time is just before
the darkness splinters with new light, the dawning ready to be sectioned by the bent blades
of the venetian blinds, opalescent lightstrands to lift the night's weight from your skin. It helps
if the words are simple and worth saying. It helps if the first thing I say is your name.


  1. This has always been my favorite poem in "Paper Anniversary." :-)

  2. i reread the book recently and loved this one more the second time around than i did the first