Lois Roma-Deeley

Contributor Biography

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 HungernorthSight, 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

holy light

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?

Given Notice

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.

But no. 

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,

he stopped. 

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.

Two Daughters

"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."

—St. Augustine

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.

Answer Me

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,

disappear altogether. 

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?

Desert Transfiguration

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.

Snow Blind

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—

just so

 

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

and then 

something unnamed and unknowable from another world 

descended and, before long, drifted

toward me on the open arctic sea.

Whatever it was, it was

holy—

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.

Author's Note:

"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

Contributor Biography

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.

The Details

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