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J. Allyn Rosser

J. Allyn Rosser is the author of four poetry collections: Mimi’s Trapeze (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2014); Foiled Again (Ivan R. Dee, 2007), winner of the New Criterion Poetry Prize; Misery Prefigured (Southern Illinois University Press, 2001), winner of the Crab Orchard Series Open Competition; and Bright Moves (Northeastern University Press, 1990), selected by Charles Simic as the winner of the Samuel French Morse Poetry Prize. She is the recipient of the Lavan Younger Poets Award from the Academy of American Poets and fellowships from the Lannan Foundation, the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Ohio Arts Council. Rosser is a professor of English at Ohio University, where she also served for eight years as the editor of New Ohio Review. She lives in Athens, Ohio.

By This Poet



This color was never stirred in a can.
It’s like the underside of God’s tongue.
The very thought of reproducing it
is like saying, I want this room
done in that woman’s laugh
after a joke that was only mildly funny
but you love the person who told it
and the one who laughed equally.
No, not remotely salmon; not sienna.
Not melon, I don’t care what stage
of ripeness. Tincture of fresh clay,
of linden tea plus one drop of clover honey?
No. It’s more like the glowy heart
in the opening credits of I Love Lucy
which was filmed in black and white
so you have to guess at its hue.
But that’s the color it would have been.
It’s like the imagined defying the real
in an unusually confrontational way.
Once you’ve seen it a kind of zen
descends like a cape over your shoulders.
You won’t always be trying to impress people.
I can’t believe how long you’ve lived here
without seeing it, though it lasts only
a few seconds every day about this time.
I saw it the very first night I moved here.
Stand over there, look toward the city
but only peripherally. This way,
don’t face it full-on; turn slightly left,
there, breathe shallowly. Look up
without tipping your head back. Now
you’re too tense, you’re not trying, no,
the light has changed it’s gone.