The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: The Tilt Torn Away from the Seasons by Elizabeth Lindsey Rogers

This selection, chosen by Guest Curator Elizabeth Vignali, is from The Tilt Torn Away from the Seasons by Acre Books in 2020. 

Deep Space Crown

Out of the oval, we read darkness. Stars

glint like lost sequins or scales

numbering a knife’s black edge.

Libra tips, its precarious justice

just beyond our reach.

This outer world wafts a summer: hot metal, diesel,

barbeque. But the moon, matte as wax paper,

smells more like gunpowder than egg or bread.

We flip through white-ink novels

typed on endless—negative—space, our bodies

diminished or augmented, never quite to actual scale.

This is how a meter grows

into a mile. The mile spins itself into a stone,

whooshing out and on and on.

Whooshing on and on, our bodies

are live cultures trapped

in this white capsule. We name ourselves

after flora, epiphytes drifting

in a realm of cold gas. What we sweat

or breathe out will circle, eventually,

back into the drinking glass.

Any ship is a hermetic

world: an arrow tightened,

blunt head swallowing the nock.

So forget that blue-and-cloud earth

fading in the porthole. Whatever roots

we have will dissolve. Mostly air and dust,

we wheel within a wheel. A body sure gets around.

Within the ship’s sure body, a star wheel

replaces the wall calendar:

time’s squares redrawn

with spidery legs, framed in concentric circles.

I hear the ratchet click, the only real noise

between the worlds’ terrible blanks.

Tucked in my hollow space suit, I wanted

to be a rivet: my head brassy

and fixed, the analog in chaos.

But every human body

is a disaster, the fallout from old stars.

My brain is just a tangle of wire,

electricity clusters. My hair is recessive

rubble, all redshift and helium.

Imagine the sun as a red balloon, helium

colliding at its core. There, they say

a human’s mongrel of atoms

will weigh twenty-eight times more.

I would never trust any hand of god

over gravity’s colossal pull. How heavy

our limbs grow when faced with that

stove eye coming closer and closer.

Plasma smells like burning sugar.

On Earth, you dream of appliances

you forgot to turn off, children you abandoned,

and, if you’re lucky, the power to fly.

In space, you dream only of feet

touching down on warm sand or wood.

Just sand and warm stone: the universe

is a Zen garden, or her third cousin

once removed. Mechanical arms

rake the surface, meditating on grooves

and swirls. Occasionally, we hallucinate

water inside a gravel’s white spill.

Like the theater, space can render us

stiller than rock. When we do move, it is behind layers,

white scrim over cloak over skin. These costumes

keep us away from radiation,

the hot and cold knobs of other worlds.

What I would give now for a beach, the sand

white or red or basalt. My feet want

a real lip of water, not just a backdrop of blue.

Long ago, against a blue water backdrop,

we turned and turned, and mostly felt

nothing. We held ourselves up like trees

without wind. Whatever substance our spoon held

flowed straight from silver and into our mouths.

But now is not then.                  Now is not even

now. Clock hands, craving sleep,

sloth toward the next white number.

            To think I once imagined space

as the smooth texture of coins

or zeros, and never as that deep sap

that traps and always keeps. Never

as our own atoms, suspended in this colloid:

inside the dark, these stars we circle and misread.

Elizabeth Lindsey Rogers (she/her/hers) is the author of Chord Box (University of Arkansas Press, 2013), finalist for both the Miller Williams Prize and the Lambda Literary Award; and The Tilt Torn Away From the Seasons (Acre Books, 2020). Her poems appear in The Missouri Review, Boston Review, Beloit Poetry Journal, The Bennington Review, FIELD, Guernica, Washington Square Review, Blackbird, The Journal, Crazyhorse, Hayden’s Ferry Review, AGNI Online, Crab Orchard Review, StorySouth, on Poetry Daily and Verse Daily, and many others. Her creative nonfiction appears in Best American Nonrequired Reading 2017, Best American Travel Writing 2017, The Missouri Review, The Journal, The Rumpus, LitHub, Prairie Schooner, and The Hong Kong Review.

Elizabeth Vignali is the author of the poetry collection House of the Silverfish (Unsolicited Press 2021) and three chapbooks, the most recent of which is Endangered [Animal] (Floating Bridge Press 2019). Her work has appeared in Willow Springs, Poetry Northwest, Cincinnati Review, Mid-American Review, Tinderbox, The Literary Review, and elsewhere. She lives in the Pacific Northwest on the land of the Noxwsʼáʔaq and Xwlemi peoples, where she works as an optician, produces the Bellingham Kitchen Session reading series, and serves as poetry editor of Sweet Tree Review.


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