Judith Roche has won two American Book Awards and has published three collections of poetry; a fourth, All Fire All Water, will appear in 2015. She has taught at all levels from elementary to university. She has poems installed in several Seattle-area public art installations and is widely published in magazines and journals. She is a Fellow in the Black Earth Institute, an organization dedicated to social justice, environmental issues, and spiritual awareness.
From “Story and Variations”
Georgian Bay, lichens living on rock–how could they be
nourished? Puerto Rico, paella in the café and tears flourished.
Ocean beaches where we walked so far we lost our car.
A motorcycle trip of wind and rain, dangerous. Rain
hits your face like little pellets of shot at 60 mph. We learned
to lean into the turns, then forgot. The girl who pined
at the window ended up alone.
And so did he, flying solo. Then sick. Oh sick.
Grounded so solidly, slipping away in increments,
urgent and painful decline
then gone. Connection severed, but somehow
still twisted in knotted lines of entanglement.
“Story and Variations” is part of a suite of poems called “The Husbands Sweet.” I found myself dreaming of the husbands (I only had two, but some of the subsequent boyfriends got into the dreams as well) years after they were gone, and it started a series of poems, a suite. The main details of this poem are from memories, some from flights of fancy. This first husband, the pilot, was a long and complicated marriage, and its unraveling was messy and entangled. We had two children, and that continued the relationship for years, complicated by the fact that the younger one is multiply handicapped and needed a lot of care. Much back and forth, shuttling children from home to home. Much confusion for both children. No clean break possible. The second one was a bit of a blimp on my deep consciousness but left its mark nonetheless. Both men are dead now and I have sadness and sweet memories for both, but the pilot is still most alive in my heart. I take our son to his grave now and again in the summer, and we leave flowers and have a picnic. That father seems very alive to our son, who still talks about him a lot in sign language.
Much of the writing of this poem is concentrated on sound and especially internal slant rhyme. Much of the vocabulary of the poem came from the sounds. I got “flourished,” and it led me back to “nourished.” I got “frazzled,” which led to “crumpled,” “pined” to “window,” “solo” to “Oh sick,” which I never would have found if not working the sounds that way. Once that started happening, I could see it, and I went back in and looked for more. Though it is not a “rhymed” poem, it is held together by its sounds.