Issue 27 – 2016 – Sarah Rose Nordgren

Sarah Rose Nordgren



We were understudies for the goats 
who were understudies for goddesses:

You were the light one, was Athena. 
I was the dark one, was Persephone.

They frolicked in their mirror world, 
the one facing the forest 
from behind the barn, bleating 
into an amphitheater of trees.

Year by year their home filled up
with castoff toys and in exchange 
they taught us tragedy. Like those sisters’

our foreheads were dense, 
interminable, above shallow eyes.

And all the while the real goddesses
popped olives in their mouths
and gazed down from a mountain 
that looked like an overturned washtub –

Athena with her famous 
gray eyes that could halt an army

and her sister with black eyes 
that could spoil fruit.



            For Brita

There is a spark 
in your body.

You mark it 
with a red star.

Other colors follow for 
other ailments,

but mostly 
it’s water and fire.

You melt the crayon 
down again. Water. Fire.

holding the paper 
still with your hand.

But still
it’s hard to find the center since

the outline drowned. 
That spark is a bleeder

and takes your body over 
part by part. A fleck

in the deep 
bowl of grief you grew from.


Mitochondrial Eve

          Estimated to have lived approximately 100,000-200,000 years ago,
          Mitochondrial Eve is the matrilineal most recent common ancestor of all humans alive today.

Please go down and thank her 
under the arched branches 
where she sits on her heels

arranging a circle of leaves  
for a good bed. And on the inside
of her skin thank the mosaic.

Take what little she has and
give it back – one piece
and another, marked with plastic

tags. How high can she count 
from your sieves submerged 
in water sorting her shards

that lay a mosaic over the earth? 
You know the entry when 
you see it, in fact

you’d recognize her anywhere – 
Reclining in pain on her bed  
under a mile of boulders

always with the door open.



Sarah Rose Nordgren is the author of the poetry collections Best Bones (University of Pittsburgh, 2014), and Darwin’s Mother, which is forthcoming from University of Pittsburgh in fall 2017. Her poems and essays appear widely in journals such as Agni, Ploughshares, The Kenyon Review Online, Copper Nickel, and American Poetry Review.