David Romtvedt

Some Church

Publisher: Milkweed Editions

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In Some Church, Romvedt defines the intersection of a person’s political, social, and spiritual life. Offering vignettes both intimate and expansive, these poems are informed by Romvedt’s world — both the immediate, rural landscape of his Wyoming home and by sociopolitical forces beyond his control. Whether evoking a dying neighbor’s tree occupied by vultures or a treasured daughter tear-gassed at a peace rally, Romvedt captures the essence of a complex American West in the tradition of Frost, Williams, and Ginsberg.

Selections from Some Church

Fire By the Lake
It was the dry season and the hills burned.
In the night, the fires flowed up the slopes
like rivers of gold flowing against gravity.
Some things refused to panic- the plants
consumed by the flames, the exposed soil
that grew hotter, the rocks that began to shift
and roll, the night itself, remaining black.
Good, I thought, we're still following the laws
of the physical universe. I waded into the water,
pleased to find that I shared the darkness
with domestic and wild animals- dogs and deer,
foxes and goats. We'll build a boat, I said,
let me run and get some wood. With no urging,
they turned and swam to the center of the lake
where it was too deep for me to stand.
I thought we were sharing this, I shouted.
I lifted my hands above my head
then brought them down so that the water,
smoking in sympathy with the flames, splashed up.
When it fell, it was as rain. Glorious, I said,
and went on slapping the lake, the animals
in the distance, swimming hard, not looking back.

The men learned that a single woman
had moved to town. "I hear she's still pretty,"
one said, and another asked, "Pretty what?"

The first went up there with his hat in his hand.
She came to the door in a battery-powered cart,
joystick steering, big tires, and a bumper sticker
that said, "I don't brake." "Excuse me, ma'am,"
the man said, "I think I got the wrong house."

That was the end of the couring but she gets out
in the cart, goes everywhere. I see her on the road
and we talk. At Christmas she called and asked me
to come into town. She'd baked cookies, wanted
to give me some. "Thank you, I'll come right in."

Whe she handed me the cookies, I said,
"They look like my grandma's doilies." She laughed.
"They're Scandinavian, made like shortbread."
"Well, you'd think I'd know, me being Norwegian."
Smell like my grandma's perfume, I was thinking.
She wrapped them up in aluminum foil for me.
At home, I sat in my chair and tried to eat one
but it was too sweet. I hated those cookies
but I loved her for making them and set
the aluminum foil package beside the toaster
until February when I threw the dried crumbs
out on the snow for the birst to eat.

That spring she told me her son had been killed
in a car wreck. That's why she moved.
They took his heart out and put it into the chest
of an Armenian soccer player. "That guy would have died
but my son died instead. After he got out of the hospital,
he visited me. He was sitting on the couch
then he knelt down and bowed his head.
He reached into his back pocket for his wallet.
I thought he was going to try to give me money
but he pulled out a drawing he'd made of Jesus.
He told me Jesus brought him my son's heart.
He held out the drawing and started to cry.
He was so happy I couldn't ask why Jesus
would take my son't heart and give it to him.
He offered the drawing to me but I told him
to keep it and so he put it back in his wallet.
The angel that was my son, smashed in the dark."

My second child, unexpected after so many years,
is born and I am mysteriously amazed at how
Rose, her older sister, seems suddenly grown up.
He she comes now, eight years old, her hair
cropped short on top and left silky long in the back.
She's wearing a red short-sleev blouse and a necklace
of obscenely large red beads, like blood fruit of some kind.
She's squinting into the sunlight and her jaw is clamped shut.
It's hard and juts out, though not in an unfriendly way.
The baby has set Rose to thinking and she asks questions.
She and I have a facts-of-life dialogue and the next day
she goes to her mother and says, "That's disgusting."
Her mother says, "Rose, someday your body
is going to tell you it wants to be with a man like that."
It wouldn't have occurred to me to say that.
Rose's eyes swell up like moons and her mouth
hangs open like a black hole. "No way," she says.
"No sir, no me. When my body tells me that, I'm not listening."
The other thing is that Rose has become fascinated
by religious thinking. She asks me to read the Bible to her.
When we get to the part about the Virgin Birth,
she says, "Oh, that's nice, read that again."


"It is nice to hear from this poet who at his best gathers what is serious and what is dreamy and what is funny and makes them stand up together. David Romtvedt is like a loyal consul who represents a species that has done some terrible things: undeluded, he still loves us, and keeps laying out more high-hearted policies for us all." -Carol Bly

"He is Everyman (and woman); His poems make it easy to recognize our common stake in world affairs." - Library Journal