Laura Rogerson Moore
available on Amazon and at Kelsay Books, January 2021
Both crackling with life and still with the unyieldingness of death, Moore’s Splendor examines the natural world with the precision of a botanist, while also reveling in the careless abandon of unfolding romance, leaving you with the taste of wild grapes, the spine-chill of a stag’s death stare, and the reminder that a single person can bring back the things we thought we might have lost. A lyrical triumph, Splendor presents us with a keyhole into someone else’s most private heart, so that we, in turn, may spy into our own.
—Micah Hales, author of the novel Howl
With virtuosic restraint, Moore weaves a lifetime of wonder into 59 short poems, yielding imagery as evocative for what isn't shown as for what is. That's perfect for a story about the unknown. Immersed in its bucolic New England setting, Moore's narrative is equal parts descriptive and introspective—and often both at once. She is a master of her craft.
—Nick Brown, Reuters
Moore’s Splendor turns a keen eye on the human and natural worlds. Through 59 interconnected poems that together weave a layered portrait of a family in transition, Splendor builds a story—of love and loss, death and desire, family of birth and choice—that is as compelling as the language used to tell it. Readers of both prose and poetry will be struck by this nuanced study of the dualities that exist within each of us, and of what we choose to share.
—Jamie Ducharme, TIME magazine staff writer and author of the forthcoming book Big Vape
Laura Rogerson Moore’s collection suggests love’s power lies in witness. Her poems cull the oldest of narratives to tell the story of four souls who empower one another with the privilege of their own integrity—the realization of their whole and uncorrupted selves—and the grace of that beholding in all its splendor.
—Irshad Manji, Founder, Moral Courage Project
summary of Splendor by Laura Rogerson Moore
The fifty-nine poems in this collection are suffused with light as they tell a story of a girl named Phoebe, her mother and father, and a stranger named O’Ryan who comes to be one of them. Set in rural New England in the middle of the 20th century and written in Phoebe’s voice, Splendor captures the extraordinary lives of these four ordinary people who seek a way to exist beyond the expectations of their world. Weaving her present with her past, Phoebe recounts her days as a child, her young womanhood, and her final years, certain of both her incorruptible self and of her joy, acknowledged and sustained by wonder and love.
Splendor would not have come to be without the inspiration of two beloved people whose story inspired it. Throughout my childhood, I listened to my father tell stories of his boyhood summers in Vermont, haying on his best friend’s farm, and of the girl who lived down the road. When my parents bought their sixty acres up the hill from Wayside Farm, she and the fellow who had lived on the farm with her and her mother for decades helped us cut a road, dig a well, and eventually build a house. In my early adulthood, after her mother had passed on, I went to work for the two of them on the farm, and while I will never know just what their living arrangement was, I was always certain of her incorruptible wonder and joy. I have spent the years since imagining how that wonder and joy came to be. Splendor is the story of that imagining, and what you read in the poems is invented from the place and what little I knew of the two who lived there.
cover and trailer artist Katherine Rogerson Moore's website: http://mybluebirdofhappiness.blogspot.com/p/artist.html
Balanced on the ridge between two ruts, I
sifted through a stack of bills, wondering
how we’d pay until an oil truck came rumbling
past the mailbox, parking over by the barn
and out emerged a man who asked which side
the house our oil tank was on. What I noticed
was his sturdiness, a bulk I’d come to learn
would disappear in usefulness and labor.
I gestured round the house where, by the kitchen
door, the wood pile fell well below the sill.
We’d yet to raise it. Dressed in black still, Mother
peered from up in Daddy’s room where she’d been
sorting through his paintings since the day before.
Unfurled, their piney expirations traced the darkness
where I lay across the hall in my narrow
bed. We could sell some more of them, we knew,
but Mother hated choosing. More losing
made her cry. “We don’t have a furnace,” I
explained, and he nodded as if expecting
me to say so. The mud that caked his tires
had sprayed his rig and tank both sides and told
me just how far he’d come to find us out.
“May I offer you a glass of water?”
I asked and led him to the kitchen door.
Three days later when he returned, the sun had
barely risen after hours of wintry
mix. Mother was asleep upon the couch
because she’d never got to bed, unpaid
bills stacked beside her there. Neither of us
heard his coming or saw him park where he
had parked before. What woke us was his axe,
the steady thwack and thunk of clean splitting,
the damp and muddy silences between.
Things I’d Thought I Might Have Lost
Swept clean, stalls shoveled
daily, fresh shavings laid,
the loft stacked high with bales,
their symmetry assuring—the barn
O’Ryan kept just right. I liked
to lie there on the rainy evenings
when the chores were done and day
was letting go, unraveling. The watery
noise beating on the tin above, the lowing
of his cows below left more room for thought.
When I aroused at last, returning to the house,
no one ever asked me where I’d been. Draping
them across my kitchen chair
as breakfast started—more than once—
O’Ryan brought me back
a sweater, scarf, or hat struck with strands of hay—
things I’d thought
I might have lost.
And so we rose
And so we set
And so we wished
for more or
less. And so
we did not
turn from one
Moore has taught writing at Lawrence Academy since 1983. Published in 2021, Splendor is her third book of poetry. In 2017, Kelsay Books published Using Your Words, a book-length collection of narrative verse exploring the lives of 3 generations of women in the same family as, without a map, they navigate the choices of the past sixty years. Moore's chapbook Yahoodips, a collection written in memory of her father, was published by Finishing Line Press in 2010. Several journals and magazines have recognized and published her poetry and short fiction. Her essays about education are available through NAIS. Her books are available through their publisher and on Amazon.
also by Laura Rogerson Moore:
Using Your Words, Kelsay Books 2017
Yahoodips, Finishing Line Press, 2010
available on Amazon and through the publisher
from Using Your Words
Burden of the Past
Such high expectations for years and years, and, always,
you fell short of them – you’ve re-read what you wrote,
recognized you were doing your best – a familiar girl,
difficult, unmeasured; everyone was. Half finished
reading Jackson Bate’s book on Johnson for your last exam,
exhausted but couldn’t sleep, you suddenly decided
to walk all over town, looking for another notebook,
which you found at Store 24, and a pen. Bate made
you believe you have conviction, and his affection
drove you round the corner, down the street,
back up the dormitory stairs and to your room.
There will always be something to say.
What You Mean
The moon is only visible
because the sun
undoes its darkness.
Some loves you choose.
Some love chooses you.
Call it love and wish it love
when what you mean is
something else – a knot
you can’t untie.
Unlatch and open.
A thousand thoughts fly out,
white with hope of light
that may not break.
Springtime and the peepers cry
out for each other,
and the trail is darker than
the darkening air,
and from up ahead of you, shirt-tails flying,
bare feet pumping the pedals
as she disappears into
the sightless night,
Louisiana’s voice drifts down,
“I had a dream last night
that I could lick myself all
over, like a dog, until
I became invisible.”
And though you cannot see
her, you know that
voice, how it has changed her
face as she starts to sing,
“Cause I’m free,
I’m free falling.”
We look through your pocket calendar, starting
at the back, birthdays, phone numbers, accounts,
medications, dosages, refill information. “He
never started another,” she tells me. We flip to
December, the family Christmas on the twenty-
ninth, an iron shot, rehab three days a week,
her seventieth two days before you died, and
the appointment you kept that last Monday.
“He knew,” she says. Sunday night you told her you
thought you might be admitted the next day; you felt
that bad. Thanksgiving and the half of us who made it
penciled in. September and a soccer game. I had to walk
you to and from the car. August and a trip to the lake.
July and a badminton tournament in the yard, getting
the kids out of the house so you could nap. June, May,
April, March and February, every week another set of
doctor, lunch, and dinner dates, people up to visit.
When did you decide? One day in the pharmacy when
you stood by those little leather volumes, the new
year stamping across them in gold? Did you linger or
hurry past? Did you glance up at the sunlight skating
across the windowglass, a strange woman on the
sidewalk, tightening her scarf around her open throat?
Did you step outside, head home, the medicine forgotten,
and the road familiar as the backs of the vivid dreams that
woke you every morning before daybreak when you’d
lie on your half of the bed and watch morning reinvent
itself, marching its fingertips of light over the hills,
like a mother distracting her little boy with play?
The Love Story
Frankie keeps asking
if you’re done being dead
yet. He wanders away
from the kitchen,
the sky finds a raven,
black as blindness,
outlined in wings.
Later a sideways snow
will wrap the stones
in purest white. We are
growing older without you.
The days go
by, the possible,
You always let us
What more is there
to say, though all else
repeats itself? You would
want to start over.
The rest of us move in
what insists on being
a forward motion.
Ready or not,
here we come.