Pattiann Rogers writes some of the sexiest science poems I know.
And that’s saying a lot, given that the eros and mystery of the material world has been the favorite subject of many poet-mystics and their poems…as it is mine.
So as I found myself wrestling recently with some nascent new work of my own, I suddenly wanted to re-read Rogers’ poems in particular, drawn to the complex, textured intensity of her imagination and gaze. Her poems reveal a deeply science-informed knowledge and almost forensic attention to texture and detail which become, in her poems, not a means by which to distance from the world, but to immerse in it more deeply…and from that immersion, rise to praise. As such, these are poems what are at once “science text and psalter,” as the poet Albert Goldbarth has described them, representing (and drawing the reader into) the kind of surrender to that passionate, vulnerable wonder by way of which we re-find our deepest, truest selves.
“If angels were to agree upon a language to describe creation, a tone of voice and a point to view that would adequately celebrate the divine,” Barry Lopez has written, “these would be the poems they would write. For they would know that without love there is no divinity, and without passion life is dust” (italics mine).
Below is a personal favorite of mine among her poems, originally published in Splitting and Binding (1989), and included also in her 1994 “selected poems” collection, Firekeeper (1994), the dedication to which reads,
“For the celebration,
and for all the celebrants,
every one of them, everywhere.”
For Passions Denied: Pineywoods Lily
Who knows what unrelieved yearning
finally produced the pink-and-lavender-wax control
of these petals, what continual longing
resulted in the sharp arcing of the leaves,
what unceasing obsession became itself
in the steady siren of the ruby stigma? That tense
line of magenta disappearing over the boundaries
of the blossom is so unequivocal in the decision
of its direction, one is afraid to look too long.
I can understand, perhaps, having a hopeless
passion for gliding beneath the sea, wanting to swim
leisurely, without breath, through green salt
and sun-tiered water, to sleep all night, lost
and floating among the stroking of the angelfish,
the weaving rags of the rays. And I can understand
an impossible craving to fly unencumbered,
without effort, naked and easily over sandstone
canyons, through the high rain of river-filled
gorges, to feel the passing pressures of an evening
sky against the forehead, against the breast.
And I can understand the desire to touch a body
that may never be touched, the frenzy to move
one’s hand along a thigh into a darkness
which will never have proximity, to take into oneself
the entire perfume, the whole yeast and vibration
and seethe of that which will always remain
aloof, a desire so unrelenting it might easily turn
any blood or pistil at its deepest crux
to majestic purple.
I don’t know what it is that a pineywoods lily,
with all her being, might wish for. Yet whatever dearest
thing the lily was denied, it’s clear
she must very greatly have suffered, to be before us now
so striking in her bearing, so fearsome
in her rage.
(For more by and about Pattiann Rogers, visit https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poet/pattiann-rogers )