Word For/Word [ Issue 17: Summer, 2010 ] [ Previous ] [ Next ] [ Notes ]

Rebecca Givens Rolland

The Drug of Which He Forgets the Name

                                    if you mix this pill with that
                                    you’ll get a purple bubble


of sorrow and salt
if you slick down the side of a house


                                    the eaves may fall
                                    yet the garden will still get planted


rows of camellias
lifted to the window

                                    begging to come inside
                                    trace the razed path backwards


until each step shatters
and breaks off

                                    each round moon        
                                    sheds a square-edged light


on a problem that once seemed
unsolvable but caved in


                                    a knot without borders
                                    harboring a burden

asking what’s the origin
of the thousand seagulls


                                    flying over the woman’s face
                                    as she sits in her chair and mutters


thinking her pet parrot
has come to cheer her on   

                                    here pretty thing he rattles

                                    off before shaking his tail



The Oracle As Witness

childhood: a bucket of what do you think will happen


of love came and found which daughter do you know


always testing for proof, signs of knowing

who’d be victorious before the battle had begun


who’d suffer under fire or hit the stake with ashes


crying out for mercy with bitter wounds


which army would be the first to cross which


would hide in beasts’ bellies for historians to find


(the men said they’d crawled in seeking food)


a hundred tasks to test if his predictions


would hold water, killing birds at a tender age


to see if the one he said he’d hit would make it


flying off in a cursed diagonal


or would collapse with a stroke of his arm


victory was less than simple, his latest burden


the lot of thieves, whether they’d pass with sacks


of valued jewels or lose their heads crying


for justice to the gods as his father commanded


teach a man to hunt and he replied I’ll bite his neck off


if you don’t know what’s coming don’t come near




History of the Elegant But Dilapidated Mansion

the Oracle visits the green house of his brother
hung with plants
                        and dark-flecked ladybugs


                        What is the cost of our growing?
the siblings ask
                                      so reckless       so rootlessly


begging to revert to prior visions
                                                landed traces


as wood continues
            to rot from the oval grain out


only its eaves refusing to covet danger
                                                holding doors


until the locks around them cease to turn


a single stake keeps the yard’s blooms alive


                        standing them upright through 
a patient funneling


hothouse effects
                                      wrought with gold machines


honey and salt
each poured in the corners
                        of their mouths


turning them gleeful monsters         turtle-eyed
                                                            This is no
            only a rumor
of striving for good
                                                trying for a god


                                          and yet somehow still
coming to ruin

ricocheting at the bottom of the glass



The Oracle Dreams of the Faraway Hospital

I could hear a plane drop on the rooftop of the war room
as the fine tips of wing shafts spread


as men's hats rose headless
in their balance (silver spooned)


I tallied up those who wanted to go to battle then
everyone who needed to go


unable to say if the weather would sway the reports
if the men still had lingering questions


of whether someone would keep watch over them
as they sped all too quickly into flames


I said if anyone should covet his mother’s neighbor
he should be silent and not leave a trace of blood


and yet I was shaken by my present life
how it tore my feet off (barked bleeding from the heels)


how without notice it swam me to the sink
although my days had once pushed me on slickly


numb-handed not looking out for my knees
keeping me (wing-armed swimmer) on my toes


back then they’d said I was stunning    
my gaze shifted to the brick outline of shadow


at the door (the wind grew white)
(props of the war room nailed down)


I practiced each day having the patience to fight
harder to turn the other and the other cheek