James Silas Rogers

Blackbird in Beloit

The guide book gets some of it right,
though omits how the bird shrugs its wings,
enlarging to flash his gold-edged, scarlet epaulets.
The book neglects the reddening willow switches
or the residuum of last year’s swamp, reeds
bending over and fat cattail heads
now crumbling into grains, like pollen.

But the book comes close on the call:
“A gurgling oak-a-lee, followed by chek.”

All the same, paper only takes you so far.
So much more is being said when,
on a concrete path beside the Rock River
a Redwing ejaculates his spring-loaded song:
that the earth is always a woman,
and that somehow, somewhere,
and in important ways, we get this wrong.

The truth is I have never wanted to be anything but a writer. Poetry is generally a disease of the young, but I didn’t find my way to it until I was in my mid-40s. Then–in what was probably a case of the universe trying to tell me something–the first poem I ever had published had five typos in it (including a dropped full stanza). But I don’t really see myself as a poet; I see myself as somebody who notices things and who cares about the sound of language. There are certain vocabularies that appeal to me greatly–especially the names of birds, flowers, and weeds.

The whole area of emotion in writing baffles me. Of course there is an emotional core—but what I most want to achieve, whether it’s in a poem, an essay, or a memoir, is to step outside a moment and register it correctly. That word “moment:” is important. At one level I suspect I’ve only ever written two poems: one is, There is something right in this moment; the other is, There is something wrong in this moment. And if you want to say that means that every poem is, in the end, at least obliquely “about” grace or “about” the absence of grace–well, that’s OK with me.


A cyclone fence along the first-
and third-base lines
of an empty baseball field,

covered with Bindweed in bloom;
unwanted dark-heart leaves
and white trumpet flowers

spread through the grass, grasp
as weeds do, at the wire.
Too much sun and too much sky:

goldfinches rise
from the outfield grass
like bottle rockets, whistling to each other.

James Silas Rogers edits New Hibernia Review, a journal of Irish Studies published by the University of St Thomas. His chapbook Sundogs was published by Parallel Press in 2006. His poems have appeared in such publications as Nimrod, Spiritus, and Poetry East­.


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