POETRY: The Background Beyond the Background by Pattiann Rogers

The Background Beyond the Background by Pattiann Rogers

On an autumn afternoon, perhaps selecting
apples from a crate or examining pickled beets
and onions in a jar, or watching two honeybees
at one red clover, we stand unaware
before a background of behest and sanctity.

Or floating down a river through elm
and cottonwood shadows, past sandbar
willows and lines of turtles on sunning logs,
over underwater thickets, bottom beds
of leaf roughage and mud, we are, all the while,
made finely distinct upon a more distant
background of singularity.

Anywhere we turn, this background
stays, a domain for mortal and immortal,
for crystal grids, for shifting furls of smoke,
for structure and fallibility, for each nexus
of sword and cross.

Atop a barn roof, a glossy green-tailed
rooster with auburn feathers lifts his wings
against a backdrop of dawn.  Is it the passing
moment of occupied event or the passing fact
of barnyard morning that creates the impression
of presence before this silk of elusive
light behind light?

Like a clear horizon at the edge of a wide
field, the background beyond the background
of sky reveals most explicitly the figures
of those that come before it—elephant
or ostrich or seed-heavy grasses, saint,
sow, runt or sire, summer lightning,
blowing ice.  It achieves us all.

Far, far beyond those far mountains of stone
and cavern against which I am outlined now
there is another background—translucent,
stolid, eloquent, still.

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