Bertha Rogers


We didn’t say what we knew—
didn’t tell them that they didn’t
own their choices, that they were
as dead in their skins as the rest of us,
their surfaces too like
autumn’s Amanita Muscaria—
so pretty so tempting so necessary—
that sitting right down on the moss
circling, chartreuse, among the spruces
seemed just right. Yes, we wished
to be there, where zero burst from
beneath green to golden enticement.
Rain only made us want it more.

Why would we mention this
to the children, those boys and girls
who opened their mouths at us?

No. We only said to them
Good morning. Don’t go into the forest.
Stay out of the darkness. Love light.


—That she was nothing
in the face of morning rising,
viburnum snaking the upright
on its way to her father’s roof.

Or, she was flux only—
heading downward, body listing,
blooming the wrong way while
horses made their opinions known
to the passing road.

Or, caught in the act
of clasping soft shoes
to white-stockinged ankles—
she was less, even, than change.

Yet she would wake—
walk purposefully,
call the dog, feed the cats,
open the kitchen
to the first bird’s stirring; the rain.

She would wait at table—
as though entitled—
for the full bowl of the allegorical,
the odd-handed.


Could not describe
the flow of hands
on her skin,
his cave kisses, talking lips.

Couldn’t excite
neighbors with talk—
yellow leaves finding ground,
March’s themed snow,
slammed doors.

The house spoke for her,
spun its silence like
drifted mote through
cracked windows.

And when it was finished,
she could never,
not ever beg sympathy
from the walls,
who had turned
their faces to empty floors.


Last leaves scuffle for place
among blood-beating pigeons,
ripped edges ruffle downward,
doves beating up.

Blood-beaten pigeons
pinioned against gravity—
doves beat up,
pinions push down, pulse.

Pinned by gravity,
rustling wind-ripped leaves,
pinions pulsing down, pushing.
They fall to brash gravity.

Ruffling, wind-ripped leaves,
leaving tired trees,
fall from brash branches
through the going season.

Leaves leave tired trees,
they flop into breezes
in this gone season.
Some leaves hold.

They flap in the breeze.
Last time I felt this way
some leaves held—
the day he died.

Last time I felt
he was young,
the day he died.
Gravity brought him down.

But he was young-gone—
he, a stemmed leaf,
gravity bringing him down
where he stayed,

dry-stemmed leaf,
last leaf scuffling in place.
There he stayed,
last leaf rustled downward.

Falling Leaves was first published in The Enchanting Verses Literary Review.

Bertha Rogers is a poet, translator, and visual artist who lives on a mountain in the western Catskills of New York. Her poems have been published in literary magazines and anthologies and in several collections, among them Wild, Again (Salmon Poetry, 2019), Heart Turned Back (Salmon Poetry, 2010), and Sleeper, You Wake (Mellen, 1991). Her translation and illuminations of the 95 riddle-poems in the Anglo-Saxon Exeter book were published as Uncommon Creatures (Six Swans Artist Editions, 2019).