Monday, October 31, 2005

Pattian Rogers in Poetry

This poem by Pattiann Rogers is in the September issue of Poetry on pages 420-21. What a way to start the week, and on Halloween, no less--pondering the very quality of life and the boundaries of death, and questioning how human recognition of something affects or does not affect its significance. Here we go:

Address: the Archaens, One Cell Creatures

Although most are totally naked
and too scant for even the slightest
color and although they have no voice
that I've ever heard for cry or song, they are,
nevertheless, more than mirage, more
than hallucination, more than falsehood.

They have confronted sulfuric
boiling black sea bottoms and stayed,
held on under ten tons of polar ice,
established themselves in dense salts
and acids, survived eating metal ions.
They are more committed than oblivion,
more prolific than stars.

Far too ancient for scripture, each
one bears in its one cell one text--
the first whit of alpha, the first
jot of bearing, beneath the riling
sun the first nourishing of self.

Too lavish for saints, too trifling
for baptism, they have existed
throughout never gaining girth enough
to hold a firm hope of salvation.
Too meager in heart for compassion,
too lean for tears, less in substance
than sacrifice, not one has ever
carried a cross anywhere.

And not one of their trillions
has ever been given a tombstone.
I've never noticed a lessening
of light in the ceasing of any one
of them. They are more mutable
than mere breathing and vanishing,
more mysterious than resurrection,
too minimal for death.

Pattiann Rogers

Cool picture found here.


MB said...

Very interesting how she managed to construct this poem almost (almost) completely by describing what these things are not.

And how she manages to communicate their peculiar strength and persistence, changing and ceasing, even while she says they are too minimal for death.

She walks a fine line, which is her point.

Danny said...

From a single organism life evolves and from a single thought a poem is born.

Zoe said...

well if you still plan on writing a poem a day... take a look at todays post on my blog... poetry contest from the canadian federation of poets... its open to everybody no matter their residency and its free... all the details are on my blog.... :-)

Anonymous said...

I read this poem yesterday and again today. This is a piece that effected me so profoundly that I have begun seeing things differently. Somehow I want to relate this to the galaxy...

Amy said...

Hi everybody,

Moose: "[T]oo minimal for death" is also the line that gets me. There are several ways to look at it; I think that the speaker defines the archaeans as minimal in relation to what we, as humans, recognize as significant. We do not sense them, and we do not notice when they die. So, as far as we're concerned, they don't. Archaeans are not minimal to themselves. But then, who knows what they recognize as significant?

Amy said...


As usual, you hit the philosophical, artistic nail right on the head.


Thanks for the info; so far I'm one for one in Amy's "30 days, 30 poems" series. ;-)

T L:

I agree, this poem deserves multiple readings. You can easily relate the ideas in a larger scale, if you think of size and function as relative to the size and function of everything else. The galaxy is tiny indeed to the rest of the universe. If the Milky Way were to die, would it affect the rest of the universe in any significant way? Would it even notice?

garnet david said...

A fitting "lavish" homage to these silent creatures from which we all came.

I've just posted a poem about the death of a friend after his short struggle with being bi-polar, and I struggled to characterize the soul he lost along with his mind. I have a feeling I'll be playing around with it some more. But I'd love your input. (sometimes i wonderf if people see the connections i think i put in the poem.)

Anonymous said...

Poetry suckes you gay fags should get off the crack and go find a life