Quake; Rodin: Crouching Woman

J. Allyn Rosser

Quake

Chance had brought the six of us close
for a few weeks, close enough for liking,
unstrangered, and would scatter us the next day
across the wintering continent,
zipping up our hearts and waving
with gloves on, breath fogging our last sight
of each other as we hoisted
luggage jammed with limitations
(Patrick would live through July)
into the trunks of idling cars.
Perhaps it was for this reason,
our sense of precarious communion,
that when the table began to shake
we all instinctively reached out
and held hands, the way they do
at séances, and laughed out
an incongruous, sweet laughter
like children getting away with something,
our fear muted by our distance
from the fault that, once roused,
had shifted everything in the world
but only slightly, an inaudible rumble
stirring the guts of our existence
as it tickled the candle flames,
spangled the moment of wine
balanced on its fragile stem,
jigged the chairs and table legs,
and tingled through bootsoles.
Shock and odd pleasure lay in
how sharply and simultaneously
and consciously aware we were
of our heightened awareness
of each other and our transience.
For once there was no distraction:
no lust; no self-conscious adrenalin;
none of the spiritual glassiness
that settles over assembled mourners.
This was just the grave world
catching us off guard — 
grabbing each of us by both shoulders
and giving a shake, saying only
Here. Now. Take a good look.

Rodin: Crouching Woman

Not quite cupping, not quite tearing her breast;
not exhaustion, not grief, nor anything so simple
as despair. Her contortions radiate
a voluptuary pleasure in aloneness,
even or especially with the sculptor watching,
grabbing at the rock he will make of her,
chiseling, wiping off and blowing and
chiseling, looking into her darkest recess
open to view because he’s got her in a crouch
clutching one ankle, one elbow leaning on
the other ankle, drooped head resting — rather,
cast against — the massive shoulder that turns out to be
her giant knee, her own knee as if it were
some other’s. One hand not-hers not-not-hers
and one full frontal — look. So what?
She doesn’t care who sees the passageway
no man enters fitly.
The sculptor sucks his knuckle,
squints, calibrating her isolation.
She feels like laughing at his effort to get it,
the anguished angle of her neck he wants.
She’d get away from herself if she could.
She’d have her all to herself if she could.

To read more poems by J. Allyn Rosser, purchase the issue.

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