Rebecca Givens Rolland – SCAPE, Above Eye Level



What I heard in the meadow, beyond
the cleaved rock, startled me. I won’t repeat it,
except to say I was far off when it started
again. Electric wire, drill saw. Agitating
downward, barrelling at us. Our
heavy hands. Over the earthquake a doubling
of sound and swallow, birdsong. I was thinking of catching
air before it splashed out. If we were to leave
now, how would we caution each other. The paint
of houses’ insides on our sleeves. How we tried
to cover over the wound as if it were just
an accident. As if caring for each other had
not made the distance go blind. She is widowed
now and I do not see her. I’m often going
into houses in the direction where I can’t
get out. I think it’s a problem with space,
how the floor plan won’t reveal the insides. How
the last words are never recorded and I don’t notice
till I’m on the airplane overnight, breathing
in and moving to the right, and sound
returns to me in a green wave. Bones clack
on plants, survivors. I call them human. No animal
would have been handled this way. She had
a child that died before she held it. This is something,
when we see her, we’re supposed to ignore. This
the panel of wood I keep knocking up
against when I keep myself busy. Too many
hours between takeoff and landing. The white
noise of it makes me feel I am handling
something. That I’ve stepped into the site the guide
told me to swim into, then climb – walk left,
swim right, pin one knee up and swing
over – ladder one hand from reaching –




Above Eye Level


I wake and it could be any century, trees
etched into shelves of white, winter

doused in its own fragile blessings, horse
climbing stairs in one season, dropping

down wide fields in the next. Cantering,
keels of barges, leaves. If wilderness

called now, I’d say, impossible. If sirens
siphoned a message, this city will keep

getting covered till there’s nothing left
– I turn inward to eyelashes, to a stricter

day. Let that century steal me slowly back.
Let me steel myself. Now north wind.

You have to know when you’ve been beaten,
when trying no longer proves. Cars sputter

gray noise in any case. When I walk, it’s
with the footsteps of one who watches

whole trees get downed. Horizon’s been
sunken in honey, flames. No one will tape

my mouth shut, will carry a fish and a lamp
to feed the family, let the family go on. No

sitting in silence, traveling a hundred oceans
through. When I wake, I find no vacancies.

No window but the one to my right, slightly
above eye level. Man in a brown hat

cleaning his lot, blasting off flakes with his
machine. Though snow whips his face

he keeps going. Snow slaps him, he slaps it back.
Reckless thinking only of revenge.

‘SCAPE’ and ’Above Eye Level’ was first published in IO Poetry

(These poems were kindly shared with Sassafras via a request from the editor)

Rebecca Givens Rolland‘s first book of poems, The Wreck of Birds, won the 2011 May Sarton New Hampshire First Book Prize and was published by Bauhan Publishing. Her poems have recently appeared in Colorado Review, Denver Quarterly, and American Letters & Commentary. Currently she is a doctoral student in education at Harvard.


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