On the Existence of the Soul

By Pattiann Rogers b. 1940 Pattiann Rogers
How confident I am it is there. Don’t I bring it,   
As if it were enclosed in a fine leather case,   
To particular places solely for its own sake?   
Haven’t I set it down before the variegated canyon   
And the undeviating bald salt dome?   
Don’t I feed it on ivory calcium and ruffled   
Shell bellies, shore boulders, on the sight   
Of the petrel motionless over the sea, its splayed   
Feet hanging? Don’t I make sure it apprehends   
The invisibly fine spray more than once?

I have seen that it takes in every detail
I can manage concerning the garden wall and its borders.
I have listed for it the comings and goings
Of one hundred species of insects explicitly described.
I have named the chartreuse stripe
And the fimbriated antenna, the bulbed thorax   
And the multiple eye. I have sketched
The brilliant wings of the trumpet vine and invented
New vocabularies describing the interchanges between rocks   
And their crevices, between the holly lip   
And its concept of itself.

And if not for its sake, why would I go
Out into the night alone and stare deliberately   
Straight up into 15 billion years ago and more?

I have cherished it. I have named it.   
By my own solicitations   
I have proof of its presence.

Pattiann Rogers, “On the Existence of the Soul” from Firekeeper: New and Selected Poems. Copyright © 1994 by Pattiann Rogers. Reprinted with the permission of Milkweed Editions.

Source: Firekeeper: New and Selected Poems (Milkweed Editions, 1994)

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Poet Pattiann Rogers b. 1940

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Biography

Pattiann Rogers was born in Joplin, Missouri. She attended the University of Missouri, graduating Phi Beta Kappa, and went to the University of Houston where she earned an M.A. in creative writing. Her awards and honors also include two National Endowment for the Arts grants, a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Lannan Poetry Fellowship, Poetry’s Tietjens and Bess Hokin Prizes, the Roethke Prize from Poetry Northwest, the Strousse Award . . .

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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