A Few... but Roses
poems by roger fogelman

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  • A Fragment

  • A Problem In Trees

  • Autumn

  • Butterfly Messiah

  • Curlew

  • Deborah

  • Der Vallfish

  • Garden

  • I'm Happy

  • Morbus

  • Nonsense Verses For My Children

  • Prehistoric

  • Purple Yawn

  • Spestas

  • Spicery

  • Summertime

  • Summer Into Fall

  • Rare Ibis Is Sighted

  • The Freedom Train

  • The Ruby Throated Humming Bird

  • Triantophyllo

Poem Title
The cuckoo bird, he sings cu cu,
Because he knows there’s nothing new;
He will not cease nor will explain
The age-old notes of his refrain.

The cuckoo bird, he sheds no tears,
He is unvexed by human years;
He sings amidst the month of May
Until the final Judgement Day.

We briefly wake, we briefly dream,
Till borne off by the rushing stream;
Before we know what has been known,
We meet new lovers fully grown.

Before my window
There paused a green-skirted evergreen tree.

So still she stands
Till I ponder what cause
To her flickering progress dictated pause (declared a pause).

And distressed find
Each lower bough
Descending into a pool of snow.

Snow ledging her eyebrows
Her frosty vision
Has charted the way from here with precision.

Trees walking are deliberate
More, say, than humankind
Our feet pace by to be in turn
Bypassed by mind.

Trees take one step, and are content
Having a single boot
To give the toe to the hands of the loam
And mildly turn ambition into root.

But don’t stay the little bands at night
Trooping, when nobody knows or cares
Over the warm undulations of the earth
Until the hills roll out in stars.

[If a tree should move
I suppose I’d miss it
But my faith in the prospect remains implicit.]
The cold, pale rays of sunlight,
Are shining in the dawn.
And the haze is slowly lifting,
From the trees upon the lawn.

The leaves, in all their glory,
Put on their cloaks of gold,
And scatter o’er the wood lands,
As the autumn wind blows cold.

The dark brown nuts are dropping
Like a hail upon the ground,
And the lively little squirrel
Is scurrying around.

The bear, grown fat by summer
Ambled o’er the hill,
Through sparkling woodland waters
Into the forest still.

Roger Fogelman—7th grade
When time and thought conjoin
In the reflecting pool of memory
Quite often there sign to me
The shapes of butterflies I've known,
Stamping their abstract signatures
Upon the medallion of the moment,
Piercing the inner eye like a wildflower
And, like it, filling the heart
With an incomprehensible sense
Of perfection
Too all-comprehensive to be borne
Except in silence,
And impossible to reduce to thought.
My niece also
Draws me into her orbit,
Signing the shape
Of years to come
In her continual present,
And my hopes for her
Blend with memories
Too long to promise that I'll gaze
At length upon her in her glory,
But perhaps my part-time gaze
May sign to her
In some far forgotten future day,
And wink, like a friendly, falling star,
To tell her of my love.
When the frost is on the pumpkin
and in blossom’s the pawpaw,
Then a mighty herd of yoghurt comes
thundering through the draw,
And all the birds in cages get out
their aerosol
To spray the passing yoghurt, and
catch them as they fall.

When the clams are wet with ardor,
and all card-carrying krill
Dance at their union gala in
tuxedoes, as they will,
On vacation hard-worked pinnipeds
try their best to get away,
And the whales come up like
thunder on the trams to Baffin Bay.

When the schools are closed forever
and education’s rife,
Then you, my child, my soul, I hope,
will graduate to life;
When the gloaming gleams with
wonder and awake the day dreams love,
As your father loved Sharonah,
and the hand longs for the glove.

Neanderthals were awful knaves
That had their domiciles in caves
And slew their prey with barrel-staves
To gulp it red and raw
They most resented rude intrusion
By big bears with malocclusion
And not a few effected fusion
With the ursine chaw.

Howe’er this state of things, I ween
Thought rather rugged, harsh and mean
Prevailed throughout the Pliestocene
And one can only muse
That ‘twas through this did fate contrive
Their end—there’s not a one alive,
But only broken bones survive
As Neolithic clues.
Upon a time prison bars
Went clank! Together—a hundred stars
Alarmed, lifted to sail in flight
Tilting toward more distant coils of night
To regroup noiselessly in braids of light.
Well, all the rest were gone, but I
With perseverance
And uncommon skill in one so young
Held in my hand
A phosphorescent firefly.

The evening was growing in a purple yawn.
The bats had other business
So the lawn
Had darkened faster than I thought
The time allowed—Perhaps I ought
To be inside away from all this strangeness
When lo!
The indignant glow
Wrestling in earnest enmity against its jailer
Reminded me of what I had brought plummeting
Down from where the winds are delicate scarves
That are half jewel and song half
And that didn’t want to come
Getting along nicely just a flicker above the grass tops.

How does one dare
To pinion the wings of thought?
So I was confronted
With my hand again
The sharp points of the star scalding my hand
And sticking out through my fingers
Disturbed me. There were no more constellations
Diving between the knees of the apple tree.
I let the firefly go and went inside
And I think the stars returned.
A girl sits on a balcony; above her head,
Which, tilted, loosens a flood of hair,
Which she, conscious, has spilled unconsciously
From out of her mother’s grave, a small bird sits,
And closing its eyes from heat or ecstasy,
Literally climbs to heaven on her own voice.

Down below, flowerpots line the balcony
And wait to be wet so they can be dry again;
Lower down, gods walk in the streets,
Appear, are lost, and attract the attention
Of the girl, who is quite unconscious of the bird,
Having fed it, and besides, is Greek, and young, and fond of men.

This is how I remember it—with the sun not dancing,
Not playing hide-and-seek with the clouds, but pouring
Its light out down into the souls of men,
Which rose, and looked at one another, and said
“This is good; let there be light.” Which brings us round
To theology again, with the bird singing its eyes out
Over the girl sitting on the balcony above
The cool interior courtyard, and below, the men.

A mind’s-length plot with thought was soWn
in secrecy, but it has grown

Exotic spices, with strange faces
From having looked on distant places.
Gum Arabic, from the veins
Of noonday genii in heat-drunk lands
Or the hard-to-come-by foot
Of white-centred anise-root.
Baskets crammed with saffron wands—
Nutmegs jostle, hearty oaves,
Embarrassing the comely cloves—
From far lands they bear away
Coriander, caraway.

Names whose iteration bear
Parceled gusts of foreign air
Subtleties but half revealed
To the importuning field—
As within a woman’s mind
Broods one half of humankind.
A bowstring taut with afternoon
The cricket cello deep within the walk
Where russet refuse frosts before the musing moon
Where waving weed surrenders shrill the strident stalk
And rustling weed reverberates with locust-talk

Goldenrod is squired in beggar’s splendor
And races through the tree-holes in a tippling rime
Heavy is the hickory and easy is provender
And gentian’s pensive cups resound with rhyme
When, in their depths, they snare the cricket’s chime.
In a blue glaze, a raptor wheels
Unresolved to kind, the breed gropes
On nut-stained pinions
A soundless sight
While the eye
Burns icy pride—
And earth smolders.

Noon! Shrill, shrill, impossible,
A cedarn copse has found
A sybil—‘til the miscreant jay,
Descendant of a winter sprite, outraged,
Vaults off, a querulous flash
Of frosty protest. The stifled silence
Pierced for a moment, swallows a soundless sigh. On the thin, blue
Back of the sky, fleecy feather-fingers float.

Tide! Taught, caught in the moment
A hover fly-crystalline lance, strained to a bell on net-vein
Sinews, -- quivering glass—shelled memory
Of a softdown wind and a summer’s day—
The brown-eyed wonder and the fragrant stalk.
Indeed, it was just a scented wind ago
(But another day, another year)
When a young boy snatched at a hover fly, and clutched
In rumpled hands, the empty air.

Nothing changes—ever.
The insect drones a lazy paean to the sun
In the molten noon, and there is not winter.
But the brook is ice and the leaf is mould
Till the grass is sweet again. How to measure time—
Earth reborn, and flesh a year dissolved.
Again full cycle, and the fly is gauze on the garden walk—
And childhood’s done, with memories.
With gaudy hues and happy honks,
The glossy ibis invades the Bronx.
The damn thing’s lost, he’s way off course,
To go anywhere near the Grand Concourse.

He’s seeking food, he needs a lesson;
He flies into a delicatessen.
They greet him there with ribald jibes.
They won’t believe he’s a glossy ibis.

The inhabitants of the concrete boredom
Ken the sparrow and know that at Fordham
The Roman eagle nests, and all over the prowl
Are tracks and roosting posts and rookeries
Of kosher fowl.

But the iridescent incandescence of a
gastropodophagous sprite
Symbolizing “rarity” should know better than to light
Within the range of BB-brains whose “Hark”
Brings more with BB-guns; so to the park
He flew, not sighted yet
Nor in my rhymes
Depicted. Lost, revolted, sick but still
His telescopic eyes sight an executive.

“Please, sir” he says, “I’m no faker;
I’m a glossy ibis, how can I reach

The bird finds out—
He catches the F train.
He won’t go to the Bronx again!
Here comes The Freedom Train
Red, white, and blue,
Meaning freedom
For me and you.

Here comes The Freedom Train
Let’s give a rising cheer,
That we may still have freedom
With every coming year.

Lands will come and lands will go
But let this be understoon,
We will always cherish freedom words
Most cherished, “Brotherhood.”

-- Roger Fogelman
-- 5th grade
The hummers nest is hidden so.
That only the parents know
How baby hummers grow and
Just where a Fairy would sew.

---Roger Fogelman-3rd grade???
It is very honorable to love a woman
In the spring, at midday, in the shade
Of the very long ago, which is only human,
And the weeping willow glade
Very possibly is Eden
In the middle of which transacted a trade
Which reminds us that, when the world began
Woman was contained in the side of man.

To be a snake is not very honorable
And yet he was the go-between.
And all of us, or those who are able
To see the truth instead of the fable,
At the center of it, or whatever I mean,
Has some part of him snake, liable
To tempt and be cursed, and crawl, having done,
Responsible for every mother's son.

So love, why not, it is a very serious business,
And supports commerce, industry, wars,
Poetry, women, I am told, somewhat less
Than honorable, and leaves not scars
Which can't be healed by the next generation, or mars
Anyone's beauty sleep, permanently, and the princess
In the story awoke, and was alive. Now let the song,
Its singer, return to their beginning, end, where they belong.

This poem is reprinted from The Academy of American Poets, University and College Poetry Prizes, 1960-1966
"I'm happy," she says, and means that happiness
Means that she's married, no more and something less.
Born in the cradle, married out of there,
She chose her husband as she combed her hair.
Ego bred aggression, and aggression spite,
Thus in others humaneness became prerequisite,
And a mask to put on, to force others to don,
While she can take hers off if others keep theirs on.
Her mother programmed her to be clean, to wive,
And keep the world reminded that she was superlative.
The best of everything, the dots on the dotted line,
A self-possessed and persevering Frankenstein.
"But I'm not perfect," she admits, thus liberating her
To chop the other fellow into hamburger.
Her husband's personality fled headlong to its lair.
To dominate completely a comfortable chair.
Thus father and mother to her children, she
Provides them with loves in times of adversity;
A kind of three-layer cake, wherein one can infer
That she moulds her children, as her mother her.
Acquaintances are mirrors, emotions a hoard,
And all existence must conform, or be ignored.
Fluttering in from the horizon,
Wing on wing, from the Spring of time,
They come, a gossamer horde
Semaphoring in the endless day,
They meet, mate, and provide
Provender for their young,
And then they die.

But now from this
Another wave is generated to move on.
What then? Well, they believe
That crumpling one brood on another brood,
An infinity of butterflies will coax
An archibutterfly to come,
And lead them from a world of birds and wasps,
And other accomplices of woe
To where the whole taxonomy will bask,
Subjected to eternal shine,
And all the vacuum of the past,
The hurried haste, the glut of spawn
Is justified.

So what are we to say?
Well, birds and butterflies and men
Form an economy of souls
At whom we laugh at our own peril;
And the winged hieroglyphs
Provide a puzzle which
Our whole life is too short to puzzle on.

So here we end, all tantalized
At the solution of the butterflies.
Huge, svelte beater of the ocean paths
The blue or sulphurbottom whale
Casts its bulk through the depths
But cannot outrun its tormentor, the harpoon gun,
So all its hundred feet or so
Are liquefied in the factory ship
With the result that there no longer are
Enough to meet and mate.

And so to push the species forward
While the ocean may contain
Individuals, they cannot find one the other
And the species will be zero
In the fullness of time.

In similar vein, those of Ashkenaz
(except some dolphins of the devout)
Cruise the English-speaking seas
Without the help of a helpmate
And so if they long
To hear a juicy mama-loshen
They will have to speak out loud.

And some who would have wished
To speak it are thwarted
By obtuse progenitors
And so the aforementioned sulphurbottoms
Sail in lonely linguistic splendor
Around the world and then
There will be none.

So rather than frontiers
A folk must guard its language, in which
I say good-bye.

The explosion of roses continues through the centuries,
Bears witness
To the incomprehensibility of beauty,
And all the roses that ever were
Are one gigantic rose, the bloom of time
And times yet to be.

And what the Greeks call the thirty leafer
Puts forth a faith in testimonial to itself,
But if beauty is its own excuse for being,
I would not wish to be there
When the Gardener comes,
To water, mulch or cut a few
To decorate the rooms of Eternity.

July 31, 2009


I am a passenger in the shipwreck of time
And a bizarre symptomology
Has alit
Upon my understaffed body
As a vulture on a long awaited meal
And if you think this mode of expression
Rules out poetry, I assent.


And I invite you to supply a wretch
Of your own
With as impressive a salvo of symptoms
To salute the world with
And snatch despair from the imaginary
Jaws of hope
But for me, hope is a defective
In a Stygian darkness
So please all your good pleaders
Roll upward prayers on my

That I might have some remission
Somewhat somehow

And if not, then remember me while
This my poem
Is eminently forgettable
And at this, this work declares
Its end.

August 30, 2009

From their buds the roses pop
And the long day slinks
          to an end
When will all this come to a stop
This road, this road without a bend.

The curlew calls upon its nest
And I think of the girls I have known
Oh curlew, the one that I loved best
Comes to my mind fully blown.

Cry then, for all past years blend
And the pains of living abate
Not mine to avert what the savage
             years send
Though precisely what I await.

June 22, 2014

A few... but Roses
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