Lois Roma-Deeley is Poet Laureate of Scottsdale, Arizona. Her fourth poetry collection, The Short List of Certainties, won the Jacopone da Todi Book Prize. Her previous collections are: Rules of Hunger, northSight, and High Notes. Her poems are featured in numerous anthologies and journals, as well as earning her many other prizes, awards, and residencies. She was named U.S. Professor of the Year, Community College, by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and CASE, America's most prestigious teaching award. Roma-Deeley founded and directed the Creative Writing and Women's Studies programs at Paradise Valley Community College, as well as the Creative Writing Women's Caucus of AWP (Association of Writers and Writing Programs). She is the Associate Editor of Presence: A Journal of Catholic Poetry, and can be found at: http://www.loisroma-deeley.com
Teach Me How I Should Forget to Think
falling through the window,
hushes along the floor, reaches for the dreaming bed
where I lie like a restless child
inside damp and tepid sheets. Red-faced sun,
bursting now from the cloudless sky, do you know
how very hard it is to be a human being?
To pick and choose one’s way among the many
crowded streets which lead
to broken bodies hanging in the square?
to sirens stopping at my door?
even as the day scrapes and bows,
dropping to one knee like an actor
stage whispering to the retreating dark,
let me rest in your waiting arms and kiss the cheek
of every misplaced hour—
were we not made for more and yet just for this?
Just yesterday I saw a man walking on his knees
down the aisle of St. Thomas the Apostle.
And you would think he’d be embarrassed,
having, alongside him, his upright wife
looking down into his bearded face
like she was heeling her shaggy dog.
With both arms lifted in prayer and
with his hands folded, lightly, around the wood rosary
which fell from his fingers in a graceful “U,”
the beads swinging in the air with slow and delicate movements,
When the man raised his eyes
to the gilt ceiling above our heads,
my eyes followed his—
past the gold leaf angels on the wall
to the dome where a crown of blue stars
surrounds the Virgin’s head and
there, on her lap, the baby Jesus, smiling
at the man who is smiling back at him.
I have often wished for this kind of faith—
pure and unyielding as a force of nature
like a tornado sucking up trees, trucks, telephone poles, pigs
whole towns—you name it—
to be taken with certainty, not pity,
into the funnel cloud which twists over ground.
"Hope has two beautiful daughters. Their names are anger and courage; anger at the way things are, and courage to see that they do not remain
the way they are."
Like a divining rod, my pick-up pulls me toward you—
taking the back road, winding around mountains,
down to the valley, past where the sheep bridge once stood,
high above the old mining camp and pine tree forest.
Then, the truck stalls.
Near pallets of abandoned brick and stone dry wells,
I kick the dust with the tip of my boot
just to see the birds scatter
and fly through broken windows of empty houses.
Standing in the street, I’m waving my arms in circles,
shouting, good and loud, as if my need alone is enough
to make ghosts leave
the peace of their graves. Finally, I find you
sitting in patch of brown grass in front of a stranger’s home,
hypnotized by the wind groaning through the wood walls,
and moss growing up the porch stairs. Your lips move
but nothing gets said. There’s a tapping at the top of the tin roof—
something kind and beautiful has come for us.
But I won’t look.
Lighting yet one more cigarette, a smoke ring drifts out my mouth,
disappears in the air. Remembering now
all the times I refused to eat,
enjoying the dizziness of my own hunger—
how emptiness is
the white room with no doors, no window, no sound
and me, shoulders pressed against the back wall,
with fists upright and ready to fight.
As evening approaches, fire flies burst into luminescence.
Miles and miles away, a train whistle blows twice.
I inhale, deeply. My cigarette glows red.
A hummingbird flies nervously above your head.
I turn my face to the west and wait—
the sky, now a holocaust of light, calls out:
burn a path through this world
or move on to the next.
said God to the man
driving home in the early morning light.
It’s been a long night of mopping and cleaning,
wheelchairs and gurneys, living and dying
during his 12-hour shift at the hospital.
The orderly rubs his eyes,
hoping the Honda Civic in front of him
will drive faster, shift lanes, turn the corner,
He might get lucky.
The Man Upstairs bashes together a few clouds
wanting to get the man’s attention.
It’s an old trick but it just might work.
But the man only stifles a few yawns,
rolls down the window of his truck,
breathes in the damp air with the exhaust.
It’s been raining all night.
Now the Big Guy makes all the traffic lights turn red.
Cars skid to a stop.
Now all the man can think of is how the day will unfold:
How and when to pay which bill sitting in a neat pile on the kitchen table?
Is his wife still faithful? What should he do
about the odd-shaped mole growing on his shoulder?
When I first came to Phoenix I didn’t know
the words for absence or caliche
or heart of rose stone. When summer burned
a hole in the sky above the cancer floor
of the VA hospital on Camelback—
when—in that small room, no bigger
than a monk’s cell, my father died in my arms
as the 117 degree heat was rising
from brittle bush and saguaros, no one would tell me
what cuts into the heart
of Iron Mountain, or why shale falls like loose pearls
underneath both feet. Now when I pull my truck
off the highway, walk into the desert, past ocotillo
and cholla, jackrabbits and screech owls, I make myself
look into the piercing August sun
staring down at me
like the unblinking eye of God.
Perhaps it was the weight of snow
falling on the ground, year after year,
or the crying winds
cutting a ravine to the water
which caused the glacier to quake and
urged the cold light to reflect off that sorrow
and temporarily blind me—
in that moment I could hear, for once, the pure sound
of the groaning earth tearing itself apart.
And when I could open my eyes again without pain
there were halos everywhere—
around the sun, on the wind
something unnamed and unknowable from another world
descended and, before long, drifted
toward me on the open arctic sea.
Whatever it was, it was
the way the frozen world
made a home for it—as if,
before dropping into this bitter stillness,
it touched the face of God
and, being stunned numb,
was astonished to find itself waking inside a rage of blue ice—
its long, slow howl
calling the ground to quiver and snap.
"Teach Me How I Should Forget to Think" was first published in Blue River.
"Given Notice" was first published in Italian Americana.
"Two Daughters" was first published in The Short List of Certainties.
"Answer Me" was first published in Verdad.
"Desert Transfiguration" was first published in Profane Literary Journal.
"Snow Blind" was first published in Rock & Sling.
Migs Bravo Dutt
Migs Bravo Dutt is a writer and researcher who has published work in several countries, regions, and cultures. She is the author of the contemporary novel, The Rosales House, from Penguin Random House SEA, and has published several essays, including one in the Washington Post. She has contributed poetry and short fiction to anthologies and journals in Asia, Europe and the USA. Migs co-edited
Get Lucky: An Anthology of Philippine and Singapore Writings.
Have you ever wondered how the red roses
That we had left on the ground last summer
Could spring back to life in late April
Or how a ten-ounce bar-tailed godwit could
Fly nonstop from Alaska to Auckland
How did cardinals, finches, robins, wrens
Warblers, and swallows learn their ancient songs
The lakes, streams, rivers, seas, and oceans
Deserts, plains, hills, peaks and mountain ranges
The brightness of day and darkness of night
Have you wondered how they change with seasons
Or were you stuck in the hypothesis
About how God needs to be faster than
The speed of light to be everywhere