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. 

Agnus, Dei: Mars

Less than a light-year

                                                                           ahead, this atmosphere

swirls and thickens toward equilibrium,

the first conifers

                                                                                          pricking the air, dawn

                              a blue yonder, the robin’s egg.

This world that would not

                                             move, this world that once looked

plain and red as sealing wax

covers its face

                                                                                                         with grass, with a noise

                                        like breath blown in a bottle.

Despite the warnings, I’ll step out

                                        unhindered by tank or mask,

     become too winded

for words or even listening. I’ll wander

                              through white blooms of greasewood,

collapse at the mountain’s foot.

Our drifting, they say, is genetic

                                             in nature, a destiny hardwired

in our cells or the stars.

But on Earth—as the story goes—

                                             my kin called out for mercy,

sheep down to skin and bone.

Their planet had grown too warm

                                                                           without passion.

     Everyone had to make a choice.

We live, now, without

                                                                                          animals, don’t know how

or what to confess. We know only one prayer:

Make this sol a clear, high note,

                              make the dust devils weaken. Make my cells

repair. Keep me

from ultraviolet arrows.

                                                                           Let the air I hold be sweet.

Once, in place of the canary,

                                                                 we sent out a trio of women:

    a six-lung test, red flues open.

The younger two crossed

                                                                 and lived, rushed back to tell

the good news. And the old one,

they call her a miracle.

                                                                           They say she went out singing.

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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