As if first inscriptions were enough, slate-riven water
I plunged my face
in. I thought I’d drown. What survival conceals itself

in tunnels, what contingencies linger
underground. As shift
of weight from toe to fist to hand makes settling

simple. I hunker down, undying. Pacific mood. Passel
of fishes: no
relation to this land’s language. No way to cram

the right word in. I’ve tried. Surely exhaustion will
hover, rot whittle
supple banks of trees. No use imputing emotion—

news will arrive, tantrum, eventually collapse. Tear
in blotted signatures,
perilous, weeping descent. Letters still unwritten

haunt me. I assemble them, impatient, hear replies
clearer than before. Squall-
breath festering, not to bury. What worth accrues to

mud except silence, except silence turns the mad
words gold. No ruler
able to mutter answers. Quaking, the village green.

Rebecca Givens Rolland's first book of poems, The Wreck of Birds, won the 2011 May Sarton New Hampshire book prize and was published by Bauhan Publishing. She also won the 2011 Dana Award in Short Fiction. Currently she lives in Boston.