The Innisfree Poetry Journal

by Kim Roberts


Soft dusk creeps up my windowsill and perches there, a little bird.

It is the moment of turning on the lights.  Troubles are like birds:
            they can

The Rose family has many turnings: it includes almond trees,                                             strawberries, apples.  Kinship is a funny thing.

Who would have thought an apple was cousin to a rose?  It is
            the moment of turning on lights, but I haven't yet,                                                   watching the sky purple.

I am watching the shadows climb the pages of my open book, where an
            apple tree blossoms.  Apples--"American as apple pie"--
            are native to Asia and Africa.

The fruit of the tree of knowledge in Genesis was not an apple, as I was
            taught.  Botanists believe it was an apricot.  Troubles are like                                 birds: they can fly.  I am dreaming idly of family.

I am dreaming about my family, holding my botany book open.  This is
            what they say in parts of East Africa, about kin: Troubles are                                 like birds.  The book resembles two pale wings against a                                         royal sky.


        Ukiyo-e Wood Block Print

I will find you here.  Amid
white cherry blossoms bursting from ragged limbs

or perhaps on a raised wooden walkway
between terraces, where your wood sandals

clop like a horse's hoof
among bursts of early morning bird song.

I will find you here, in sheltered pavilions
against rice paper screens,

indoors and out at the same time,
outlined in black,

in a picture frame yet floating free,
a screenprint and a longing both

in delicate pinks and fading blues,
that, five hundred years later, remains as acute

as this winding stream, those craggy rocks,
our meeting place,

the tea house at the end of our graceful bridge.


On the lower slope of Mount Parnassus
            in Connecticut, I await
                                                  the Oracle.

Just as in Greece, there's a rock here,
                        and as in the time of the priestesses,
            I am ready to pay my fee.

I invoke the alphabet,
all the useful signs:
                                 the letter A
repesents the head of an ox,
            D is a fish,
                        K is the palm of the hand.

The source of all the words is here,

            but under a spreading maple,
the Sibylline rock
                                 does not speak.

Left here by the retreating glaciers
            of the last Ice Age,
                                               it guards

the entrance to a meadow
                        of goldenrod and stickerbush,
            massive and obdurate.

If the rock were to cleave in two
and emanations rise from the earth,
            revenants of ancient Greece,

who in all Connecticut
                                          could interpret the signs?

I place both hands upon the rock
                                                        where the sun
            alights each afternoon, sifted
through the emerald leaves,

                                making patterns
                along the boulder's
rough sloping sides
                                 that resemble

the shapes of letters:
sometimes a fish, sometimes an ox,
                                    sometimes a snake--

                if only I had the laurels
                                and knew how to read--

and sometimes a B like a house.


The larger, darker, hairier one
                        has such a huge hump,
             his bearness

seems to be carried
                        entirely in his haunch.
            The other, paler (younger? female?)

is too flat-backed, too elongated.
                        The realer bear
            is too little bear:

she's bland and pale and flat.
                        While he leers darkly,
            paws the yellowing vellum

with his vicious crescent claws,
                        she remains empty-eyed.
            She remains a sketch.

Pisanello drew this in the 1430s,
                        and it is still the truth:
            the grand gesture, the exaggeration,

the coiled ferocity,
                        the suspicion,
            its hirsute and towering shoulders,

will always crush, will always conquer
                        a waggish fidelity
            to fact.

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