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Rick Rohdenburg

The Dogwood

God cursed that tree,
the dogwood, stooped and crabbed,
that once grew tall on blessed hills.
Roman or Jew or slave, oh, anyone,
driven randomly to this and only this
election, axed and hacked that innocence
to one and only one rude measure.
The wood bled sap like water. Scurrilous the God
condemns the bidden lamb to slaughter.
Damn, too, the player. Yet
in this and every spring's cold passion,
the dogwood crowns its naked limbs with alb-white bracts,
taking the same fierce pride in its damnation
saints do in their martyrdom.


              Emily Dabney Clark, 1898-1981

Nothing, not even iron,
could hold a grudge like you.
Thirty years you made my father wait
in the car outside, ringed by starlings.
So much less
than you hoped for.

I too have kept my anger
staved in my chest.
But the dead are too heavy
to carry, that is why I've laid you down,
here, among the others.

Their beautiful, high foreheads
are yellow as candles. They light the dusk.
They sweeten the earth. Crows
fly from my mouth.


I Came unto This Ghost-Washed Room

I came unto this ghost-washed room
from duty, not devotion.
You lay slack, and ashen, as though soon departed
from the regions dark or light.
I called your name. I shook your foot.
You did not stir. Another son
might sit and wait and hope
that you would wake, and see,
and speak his name. I turned away.

But I asked my brother,
should you rouse in these guttering days,
to say that you and I had talked,
and I was glad that I had come.
Small deceits are all I have to offer
you the dying, you the dead.



Rick Rohdenburg lives in Atlanta, Georgia with his wife and a racing of greyhounds. He works as a systems analyst.