WINTER 2018 / VOL. 18 ISSUE 1

Poetry by 

James Silas Rogers

With my Mother in St. Brendan’s Cemetery, 
Green Isle, Minnesota
Two years ago 
the steeple toppled but now,
like a windfall apple
put back on the tree, 
it’s been restored. 

Partly to see it,
I’ve brought her home
to this church named 
for the Kerryman who sailed west
into the ice. 

It’s cool for May.
She wraps a black sweater
around her, against the 
chilling gusts. The sky is sunless,
grey as wet chalk.

We’ve brought begonias 
for her parents’ graves,
We place them with care,
offer short prayers,
cross ourselves,

and then head back,
stepping over tea-brown puddles, 
down well platted lanes
of granite. She reads them 
like a childhood map;

today, these names,
none of whom I knew in the flesh,
prompt her to release
old secrets. She easily taps
a long-locked vein:

“This man: married 
and had a family when he got
a poor farm girl pregnant,
out in the country. 
She gave the baby up…

“Oh, Mother told me about 
this one: he lived here for years,
and never mentioned a wife 
until she and four children
arrived on the train …

“And over here – Maurice.
You know him; Eileen’s husband. 
They had get married, of course.
It worked out in the end, or so
you have to hope.”

Then a rush of wind
threatens a word-drowning rain, 
and my mother withdraws
from her uncharted stories, 
bottles them up

for fear of that rain,
falling in silent sheets,
rain that could have blown here
from Ireland. We’ve just felt 
the first drop. 

Editor’s note:  this poem was originally published in Northern Orchards: Places Near the Dead

To the carver who sculpted the headstone of 
James Charlis,
born in Kells, County Meath,  in 1796
When sacred artists write an icon
they believe it incomplete, until
Greek letters fix it before God;

though I distrust words as I walk
among chiseled, fading names
on this fog-damped hill,

where the part that lives still
at James Charlis’s grave
is a barrel-chested Christ: sandstone,

not Italian marble, and carved 
with whatever tools were at hand.
His dwarf-heavy head falls

well short of the cross-bar 
toward which his blunt arms stretch,
pinned in place by dull 

nails – a misshapen figure
entirely of this world,
that somehow mirrors a soul. 

Bless your hand, who worked 
this stubby Christ. Whoever you were, 
you lacked the artist’s usual skills

of deception. And bless
the wounded grace of this figure,
its holy clumsiness,

just as we bless and thank 
the gaunt monks whose quills
drew the wide-eyed savior

in that book a Welshman 
thought angelic.
The man below was also a child of Kells.

Editor’s note:  this poem was originally published in Spiritus

McCarron’s Lake

Once again, the way June daylight hangs on
comes as a surprise. After we’ve paddled
twice around the lake, thinking dark is near, 
we head in early, at only 8:00 p.m. 
Out of plain peevishness, on our way back 
we scatter a flock of resting geese 
though by the time we reach shore, they return, 
quiet down, and settle in to sleep.

Sunlight lingering, we sit on Pat’s deck 
drinking and chatting while we let his dog,
Fergus the yellow lab, lick our bare legs.
Summer’s arrived like an old promise kept.
Sometimes there are moments that demand
we touch one another. You take my hand.

After Reading John McGahern’s Memoir
My father would tend his grill for hours,
its briquettes never flaming. He’d stand
outside from just before sunset until
well after dark, poking, banking up, watching.
Sometimes, for no reason, the coals would glow
hotter, as if exhaling. But mostly
this was an exercise in steadiness, 
a solo vigil of his own choosing, and apart.
It is forty years later, and on Sundays now
I do much the same, though with less patience, 
using maple twigs, their grey surfaces dry
as shed snakeskins.  I snap them over my knee, 
thinking of the Aughawillan house, of a small boy
helping his mother. The dark fell early.

And in those moments he was hers,
happy; his pleasure was to gather
small sticks, given to be gone in flames.
The chill of the April evening returns to me.

Editor’s note:  this poem was originally published in The Clifden Anthology 32



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