Eliza Rotterman
 
 

Murrain

At a time when time divided.
At a time ciliate and glam.
Plastic nested sparrows.
Plastic bedside dogs.
It was time to get up and go.
Time to wake and dredge—lipstick, ring tones,
mineral debris. It was time to pile up
and we were all together, holding snow.
Our heads confused with nylons, sponges, spatulas, pillows.
We leaked digital residue. We opened,
our hands found paring knives, bricks.
We watched a talk show and another
on forensic discoveries.
We were hungry.
Found a recipe for caramel-nut brownies.
In the cupboards, mountains of quartz.
Basalt scars, granite.
Someone said, my body is in a warming period,
so we assumed the anatomical position.
Conjured the melting sensation.
Inside the body’s wet silk
something plastic— a wind-up piggy,
a yellow pail. Instructions for planting
a garden. We wanted to wield tools with authority.
We wanted our mothers to hand us something soft
and new: a kitten in a striped sock,
a shoebox containing nature: acorns, leaves,
a baby squirrel to bottle-feed.
Instead we learned the body is a collection,
a repository of crushing sounds.
We wrote the doctor’s words and stared at our hands.
The right lung fills with fluid.
Kidneys shrivel. They worked to remove
the sick tree in sections, the broad-leaved maple
that since October had begun to lean.
It may have fallen into the living room.
It may have pinned the dog to her chair.
We said goodbye.
There was a great show of weeping, digging.
A great show of objects heaped into a hillside.
The glacier slid and churned.
Homes and grief, days and sheets.
The glacier retreated.
Left Rapunzeled strands, rudiments
of rock. This, my pelvic talus,
this, my ovum, my inland sea.
We tried once more to understand
what tomorrow would be like.
A trillion buckling knees.
Salt and lathes. Summers unswum.
The radio played a song. I turned it off,
wrote, It’s time on the wall in butter.
It was time to disassemble.

I cleared a space.


Snowshoe Hare

I didn’t know snow is a color change,
dun to white-on-white. But I had a mother
who had a mother and so on from the attic
decades—velours—came down. I played virgin
on the virgin slopes. Only ear-tips
and eyelids remained a sooty Russian grey.

I came to expect a telltale wind,
shades of brilliant white,
sexless days like loaves of airy bread,
malaise, viscous as sap.

When the weather turned I turned,
homed in a meadow of umber-streaked green.
I pressed long grass into an ovular nest and nursed
daughter-throngs, my milk the milk of metric verse.
Such good little mornings. A chugging choo-choo
of corncake, maple and pecan
we rode plump into the first false snow.

Your father and I think it’s best to be safe
as bread in the freezer. Father? they squeaked,
is a father the root of the grasses we chew?
A father is an attic where memories are stored.
Oh. And oh, they said. Disappointed.

In white we marveled and for a week even I couldn’t find us.

Then a sultry breeze leaked in.
I woke stupidly white against wet natural hues,
a birch-bitch singing window
your window is open.

And so deafening the rabble of water,
a cottony dread balled up in my brain.

Your father and I, I began, but felt too much
a fluffy bag of trash. We were tagged
for the underworld of books.
As far as the end’s concerned—
the predictable chase, the theater of teeth—
there’s nothing more to say other than
it hurt.

erottermanEliza Rotterman’s poetry and reviews have appeared in the Colorado Review, Interim, Fourteen Hills, and Poetry International. An interview she completed with Maggie Nelson, author of Bluets, can be read at abradstreet.com. She has received two fellowships from the Vermont Studio Center. Currently, she lives in Portland, Oregon where she is completing her first book of poetry and studying nursing.