Squirrel Hill

“The two most engaging powers of an author are to make new things familiar, and familiar things new.”
     — Samuel Johnson
Eyes of the author.

Rosaly DeMaios Roffman

PHOTO: Rosaly DeMaios Roffman

Rosaly DeMaios Roffman, Professor Emerita, taught literature and writing courses at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. She also founded and directed a Myth/Folklore Studies Center at IUP. In April, 2021, IUP honored her with a ribbon-cutting for the Dessy-Roffman Myth Collaborative Space in Jane E. Leonard Hall, at which she read Our Debt: Chant Poem for Myth. Co-editor of Life on the Line and author of I Want to Thank My Eyes (Tebot Bach, 2012), Going to Bed Whole, Tottering Palaces, The Approximate Message, and In the Fall of the Sparrow, she has collaborated on 20 pieces with potters, composers, musicians, and dance/theater companies. She is the recipient of a National Endowment Grant and a Distinguished Faculty in the Arts award. She has read her work in Ireland, Mexico, Greece and Slovakia. Her poems have been translated into Mandarin, Japanese, Slovak, and Hebrew. She has published in journals, magazines and anthologies and was invited to read her poems on a BBC production entitled the "Wild and the Sacred."

The Grace of Invention

Where inventions come from
is one holy place.
Inventing car-energy
and light and planes is holy.
The kindness of the man
who invented little pins is holy.
And whoever thought of flutes,
and writing down notes for more music
is holy. Be careful when you joke
about levitation and lifting off
from your body, that’s holy.
The Chinese have known for centuries
which peaches and brushes are holy
and breezes through the banyans are holy
as is one man’s wisdom of numbers,
and the pleasures of coming down rain,

Just thinking of what is holy is holy.
The Professor Watches the Male Nurse

You wear your ice mitts like a prizefighter
and kneel as if in prayer, cradling those packs
around his feet. You turn him over in bed,
feed him his eggs with all the sureness that comes
from drinking with the men in Tanoma
before they sewed up that old mine—
those buddies whose language was fouls and runs
all of them volunteers in Viet Nam, all of their sons
still football players, driving reluctantly now
to a university some people consider the enemy

But the sureness of the I-V needle
like an ancestral pickaxe in the rock
startles even you, lets your eyes meet his
while you change the bag for him, give him
a sip of water, and without speaking,
take away his diapers—yes, startles even you
new to holding men, and rocking this one
till he went under—startles even you
who worked beneath the earth like him
and came up all black and proud once

Oh, I want to tell you as I stand by this door
that every Greek hero had permission to do this—
to find his sacred womanhood without making speeches

And I am on my knees
to you whose name I don’t know
and to those great gods

who wouldn’t have any of that
Our Debt: Chant Poem for Myth

See Apollo’s perfect face in your dream
See it in Olympia—in fields of stone,
Doors everywhere, in every museum
and sing a lament for Adonis who has a foot
in Athens and a marble hand in Paris

In your dream kneel before the gray shrine
built by an unknown Cleopatra on Delos
in front of a parched museum for visitors
See Eleusis where you can imagine yourself
dancing near a blue stream for Demeter--
and in your dream do not leave your bed
for the small island Poseidon called Atlantis

But think about permission In your dream
to be transformed into owl or kingfisher
quail or swallow or some dubious hero
standing for all of us in so many places
where moon and person are always turning
Think about the mountains and wildflowers
snd celebrate what can heal and grow anywhere

Celebrate those living quietly in craggy places
Celebrate Orpheus who tried to lead Eurydice
past the shallow channels of the underworld
and In your dream at last rescues her and us
Celebrate all names for planted or made things

Celebrate the listeners gathering wherever they are
who find themselves in the world’s great stories
and will in their dreams sing the truth in them
     over and over

Books by Rosaly Roffman:

I Want to Thank My Eyes (Tebot Bach). Going to Bed Whole

purchase at Amazon.com

Books edited by Rosaly Roffman:

COVER: Life on the Line

purchase at Amazon.com