A delightful reading

images-2Last week I drove down to Stanford to hear Ellen Bryant Voigt read. I had heard of her, but not read much of her work. It was worth the long drive through the increasingly dense traffic of the Bay Area. The words that come to mind are vibrant authentic.

Here is a poem from her new book. Unlike her earlier books, these poems dispense with punctuation, but I think you will be able to decipher the poem’s sense without it:


after a week of heavy snow I want to praise my roof first
the acute angle at which it descends form the ridgepole
and second that it is black the color absorbing
all the other colors so that even now as arctic air
blows in from the plains my roof burns off from underneath
the dazzling snow dense layers of particles which are tiny
specks of trash sheathed in wet cloud what chance
do they have against my roof even at night
the snowpack over my head breaks apart and slides on its own melting
down from the eaves as though my roof had shrugged I hear snow
thump to the ground a cleansing sound the secret of my roof
is standing seams the raised ridges
bonding the separate panels to one another an old
wound that has healed no lapped shingles catching the wind
no icejam at the eaves no sending my beloved out with an ax
no roof caved in from the weight of snow as happened in 1924 only
another thump as a slab of snow lets loose leaving my roof
gleaming in the wet residue it takes what it needs
from the lifesource and sheds the rest a useful
example if I were starting over

Ellen Bryant Voigt, from Headwaters

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