Michael Rogner ~ Three Poems

Not in Redwood Country

this is sycamore country
cot­ton­wood country
the coun­try of waxwing bands trilling in privets
the coun­try of parks with bag dispensers
to pick up shit next to tents and herds of goats and a mech­a­nized army
of bench­es hon­or­ing our dead – this is the country
where no can stands a chance where we chug beer
for char­i­ty where some smoke means warmth where some smoke
sounds alarms– this is flood coun­try wild­fire country
a coun­try of rice and almonds and prunes
a coun­try where we grab our trees and shake them –
our wood­peck­ers dress like clowns and refuse to fly
in straight lines – we build tiny homes
for owls – I’ve seen deer on rooftops, I’ve seen
leaves that glow, I’ve seen fam­i­lies gath­er along
a frozen creek to join arms and jump –
there are no emp­ty homes in this country
no apart­ments no motel rooms, we have fields
that grow trail­ers where the moon arrives each night
on time, we have busses to car­ry peo­ple anywhere
they want as long as it’s not here,
but more keep strag­gling in with ashy faces
and t‑shirt slo­gans and mus­tangs with the rear panel
melt­ed like the shrinky dinks we baked in ovens,
arriv­ing out of love or ded­i­ca­tion or the fear
of what oth­er coun­tries have become – I walk
forest­ed paths in this coun­try and hear the brambles
con­vert­ing water and sun into reach­ing arms
to bury all the things we lost
all the things taken
from our coun­try and giv­en to the sky


What It Is

Is it in my blood
because they said it is – isn’t
it some­times what it isn’t,
and some­times it just isn’t
what it once had time to be –
the cat­alyzed phos­phatase buoys
bob­bing the crowd­ed lanes
the only mis­matched smear
we are allowed to leave behind –
through our hearts and houses,
through our liv­er and prayers,
ping­ing the tucked away star in the big dipper –
what if it isn’t hid­den, what if it is
a dim­ly lit wall­flower, lone­ly, or not,
maybe its own company
is what it is, maybe we all stand
in the lee of brighter stars,
maybe we all chuck our sins
into the ben­zene mist between
the stars that is, and the ones
that was, or maybe they’re
just wrong, and what it is
isn’t any­thing at all


Outside a God

The cam­era
I swallowed
locates pennies
my broth­ers made me eat
tiny Lincoln portraits
on the gallery walls
as I fail to cap­ture panoramas
of these Day of the Dead masks
with white tags dangling
in an ancient fort
where priests came to find slaves
but now tour guides
wave lasers. Skulls
and flow­ers. Lizard eyes
sink­ing. Outside a god
set­tles against a leafless
tan­gled lamp post. Outside a god
tells sto­ries we wish
we hadn’t heard. We pass a canal
where a salmon
col­ored bird
hoists its foot-long
tail. By the time every­one looks
the future has passed.
Somewhere inside me
the cam­era­man drapes
the black cloth.
Everything waits.
We exam­ine our phones.


Michael Rogner is a restora­tion ecol­o­gist liv­ing in Northern California. His poet­ry has appeared recent­ly in Willow Springs, the Los Angeles Review, the Minnesota Review, Barrow Street and elsewhere.