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Holy Heathen Rhapsody

As if underwater, she floats and shimmies
slowly upward while the sun warms. She pauses
to sink again through the green and deeper
green garden leaves of this single tree,
its edifice all of Eden, heaven and earth,
slender branches bending and flowing
with the morning currents.

Summer lolls and mazes, a white-limbed
poplar, leafstalks, peel of scented bark.  
Her body—seed wing or feather down, thread
slivers of silk—touches each curled lobe
and creviced branch as she passes, slides
underside, overside, along the ridges and furrows.
(Is that a tiny tongue finding the way?) Love
is this sun-holding tree of lapping leaves,
delves, canopies, a multi-tangled cover.

A spasm of breeze, the tree shivers, each leaf
twisting white flash / green shadow. By will
or wind, she moves stemward toward the steady
trunk, following fissure and tangent, rests
finally folded in a woody niche.  Who could
know better? Regard the celestial; the sky
is not shelter.

Pattiann Rogers is the author of 12 books, most recently the essay collection The Grand Array: Writings on Nature, Science, and Spirit (Trinity University Press, 2010) and the poetry collection Wayfare (Penguin Poets, 2008). As poet in residence at the Milwaukee Zoo, she selected poems to be installed permanently throughout the zoo as part of The Language of Conservation, a nationwide project bringing poetry into zoos and libraries. Her poems appear in anthologies and textbooks including Verse and Universe: Poems about Science and Mathematics (Milkweed Editions, 1998), and The Measured Word: On Poetry and Science (University of Georgia Press, 2001). The recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and other awards, she has taught writing at the University of Texas, the University of Montana, Washington University of St. Louis, Mercer University and the University of Arkansas.

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