The Passionate Poetry of Pattiann Rogers

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 )



Author: Donna C Henderson

Donna Henderson lives on the banks of the Deschutes River in Maupin, Oregon, where she also practices psychotherapy, poetry, music, Reiki, and teaches yoga, among other things.

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