Lee Ann Roripaugh

#meteorology   #string of beads

5:30 a.m.’s  ::  moon is a bitten lozenge  ::  the eucalyptus 

trickle aching the toothy  ::  nubs of uncrowned stars—


drilled clean down and plain  ::  without novocain or gas  ::  wind’s rhythmic bellows 

swelling out from night’s hoarse throat  ::  sparking fever’s weird blue flame




october snow makes  ::  the day outside look like a  :: kellog’s frosted flake

shush of tires / headlights’ flare / snow-  ::  hushed birds’ jingly murmuring




wake to find the wind  ::  blowing off-key with your sky  ::  sun melting down through

thick stacks of pancake-y clouds  ::  like a hot pat of butter


yesterday’s snow sleeps  ::  late this morning in quiet  ::  white sheets / while rickety

trees comb out fog’s heavy shanks  ::  of tangled, unruly hair




the loss of bright wings  ::  birdsong / the sound of night trains  ::  stretched between the bluffs

like pulled taffy / makes you feel  ::  a bit wistful / out of sorts


as gusted leaves buzz  ::  and whorl over snow-sugared  ::  roofs / but oh! this blown

fluttering’s not a swirling  ::  of leaves, but winter sparrows




ugh! snotted hoody ::  pinkened tinge faint litmus stain  ::  (yes or no / minus

or plus) watercoloring  ::  blown-through tissues / torn storm blooms




bare honeysuckle  ::  bristling with squeaking sparrows  ::  occasional burst

of quarrelsome confetti  ::  like mushroom clouds of winged spores


the day gets woolly  ::  dollops of snow-gritted fog  ::  machine-spun sugar

carnival-flossed / vortexing  ::  the thin cardboard sticks of trees





wet-dark tree beaded  ::  in pearled bits of wintry mix  ::  excited finch swoops 

in manic parabolas  ::  to sip from the leaky eaves’ 


icicle / inside  ::  the riveted cat clanging  ::  the old windowpane 

with the pealing tongue of her  ::  tail / sound of a sealed-shut bell




fleck-stung peppering  ::  thunderfrost / ice lightning  ::  a thick dangerous

glaze of frozen rain / sugar-  ::  stuck and snow-coning / becomes


a sticky windswirl  ::  spiraling in fog’s clotted  ::  milk / a stirring of

espresso-quick birds / matchstick-  ::  bright heads / scratchsulfur / panic-


flare / adrenaline’s  ::  low-grade slow blue flame / brillo  ::  pad clouds swollen with

more snow’s withheld scour / no one  ::  isn’t a sulky pansy




a winter count:  ::  boxes of kleenex – 4 / zicam  ::  spritzes—64

echinacea tea—ran out  ::  icy hot patches—ran out




iced branches cased in  ::  glass / Murano somerso  ::  freeze-framed see-through beads

clicking like weird necklaces  ::  overstimmed birds’ weird shoutings


grackles pose and chuff  ::  in the sleet-stung glaze / songbirds’ :: quizzical whistling

there’s a sudden bunny in  ::  the alley / kicking up snow




it’s april 18  ::  31 degrees / the noon  :: thick with wind and snow

and fog / chastened grackles hunch  ::  silent in the trees / whiten




a solipsism  ::  sudden as a dumped-out waste-  ::  basket of soggy

cottonballs / fat swarm of snow  ::  spilling down / tricky fizz and


glitter stubbed out on  ::  the tongue / silver thread of wren  ::  song needling the

mummy trees / silver stitch of  ::  chit and finch and chickadee




if you could, you would  ::  spend the whole day watching snow  ::  kiss the river’s up-

turned face / but even after  ::  the snow melts / it still courses


through the river’s veins  ::  and arteries / informing  ::  the chilled jade discourse

of all of the river’s thoughts  ::  all of the river’s dreaming


#homer  #alaska #string of beads

mountains are doing  ::  a slow burlesque with boa’d  :: clouds and filmy mists

downstairs the sewing machine  ::  whirs a blurred song of bee’s wings




moose calves in twilight!  ::  woolly and damp in the fog  ::  and headlights / all knobby

knees / leafy ears / high-haunched / wet-  ::  nosed, with glamorous lashes




sandhill cranes hanglide  ::  in for flatfooted landings  ::  in Beluga Slough

like skinny-legged, pear-bottomed  ::  tourists / weird parachutists




beers of Alaska  ::  that you’ve drunk: Galaxy White  ::  IPA / Birch Bark

Bitter / China Poot Porter  ::  Arctic Rhino / Monk’s Mistress




cracked back of a crab’s  ::  shell / tumbleweeds in spastic  ::  cartwheels on the shore

seagulls glide backwards in gusts  ::  rewinding film / no take off




the same bald eagle  ::  roosts atop the tsunami  ::  siren by the spit

oh, he sure likes it up there  ::  says a local when you ask




the day you get called  ::  snakebitch(!) on facebook / fog pours  ::  in from the bay like

glorious horror movie  ::  fog / cheesy fog-machine fog




uncanny, with gold  ::  eyes / grey feathers tipped with gilt  ::  delicate stilt-walk

the cranes tilt back their scarlet  ::  heads / trumpet from their neck-stems




on the way back from  ::  Tutka Bay / the yurt workers  ::  smell like damp wool and

pine / shyly proffer phone pics  ::  of wildflowers from the trail


#nebraskacity  #string of beads

sun’s honeyglaze bastes  ::  the orchards to lick and spit-  ::  shine / where’s the black cat

who left his big paw prints? / white  ::  domino dents in the snow




trains clatter and moan  ::  all night droning through the cleffed  ::  staves of river fog

and the hoarse torch songs of frogs  ::  woodmen of the world, unite!




a house centipede’s  ::  dizzying ripple and frill  ::  in the porcelain

bathtub / Wikipedia’s  ::  swift disambiguation




sundowning’s bulbous  ::  egg yolk copperglinting the  :: corn husks / quavery

ribbons of geese flap kitestrung  ::  on the blinding horizon




the lovely women  ::  writers lean over winter’s  ::  tarot / always the

same questions each year, they say  ::  love and books, or books and love




oh, little beetle!  ::  with the too-long antennae  ::  backsliding down the

toilet / you’re awkward and you  ::  feel too much . . . so am/do I




the slow fandango  ::  of mist shape-shifting through the  ::  river valley / now ghost

now milky jellyfish / now  ::  smoke / now cloudy nostalgia




hot bolt cracks open  ::  sleep like a fierce guillotine  ::  morning birds murmur

in rain / you’re dreamy and vague  ::  over weak lobby coffee




a black cat pads through  ::  the orchards in fog / behind  ::  drizzled glass, you tongue

the sun-sweetened crunch of   ::  a yellow apple’s freckles




tangy-bitter skin  ::  of chilled plums sparkly-beaded  ::  with perspiration

sweaty in the hot mouth of  ::  late July’s humidity


#portentnotportent  #stringofbeads

pancake-stacked contacts  ::  both lenses in the same eye  ::  muddled by the blur

woke broke in a strange hotel  ::  eyebrow dream-threaded clean off




At the restaurant where you’ve ordered a waffle resting on a bed of cheese curds and berry honey, you inquire about the white jellyfish (like a tasseled silk pouf) floating in the aisle. What’s its name? you ask. May I take its picture? The women proprietors generously give you an old milk carton, filled with Ai Wei Wei’s porcelain sunflower seeds, stolen from the Tate Modern, to feed the jellyfish. The jellyfish need calcium, they tell you. Another jellyfish appears as soon as you scatter the seeds, then another, until one of the jellyfish you’ve fed evolves into a silver, tabby-striped duckling, who hops up on the table and yawns.




cold rain sieving through  ::  a mesh-steel colander sky  ::  misread “updated 

his/her cover photo" as ::  "his/her cadaver photo"




The baby elephant gambols noisily and joyously in your upstairs room. You’re not sure how it got inside, but you’re so happy it’s (t)here. It pauses in front of you, swings its trunk in a wrinkly arabesque. You don’t want to forget this. You don’t want to forget. So you take a picture with your iPhone—a close-up of eyelashes and nose leather—so you don’t forget.




that time you misread  ::  morning glory as morning  ::  gory/ then promptly

went on to misread morning  ::  kickstart for morning lickstart




You wake in the morning to find all the hotel room walls are made of glass. Gangs of men stand outside and stare. You sneak through a secret door in the bathroom to the front desk to request a late checkout. When you return to your room, you find the men have ransacked your belongings, leaving big wet yellow handprints of pee all over everything. You try to find a private place in the bathroom to change your clothes, only to discover there’s a secretary sitting behind a desk, typing on the toilet.




morning haze unfazed  ::  by caffeine: evil eyelid  ::  a dessert island

salted caramel poopcorn  ::  time to take a coffee breast




A hummingbird’s trapped in the apartment. Flown in through a hole in the screen. The cats shiver their hips. The picture you try to take is all hot blur and thrum. The wheezing lens opens and closes. A frame that won’t pull into focus.




unpeeling bright rinds / pulled from  ::  your back like orange petals  :: abandoned pile of

marigold eggshell / scent of  ::  citrus marking someone’s palms




We are feral children, living in an abandoned tunneled concrete underground. The surface = danger. The bits of garbage, our remaindered archaeologies, are precious to us, and we arrange them with care, treat them as artifacts. One day, an unmarked van suddenly arrives on the surface to rescue us. Half of us move half of our fractured crockery, our rusted pipes, our cracked plastic up to the surface. The other half will be transported to safety the next day. But at night, the tunnels and rooms all collapse as we anxiously wait. Don’t look back.  Don’t look back.




new year’s tarot cards  ::  in a nutshell—stop shoulding  ::  all over yourself

flipturn at the pool’s dark end  ::  into champagne spritz of light




You’re walking across a bridge over a large body of water. Halfway across, you meet a giant white serpent with brilliant green eyes. It rises up, when it sees you. And so you lie down on the bridge, to show it that you mean it no harm. Held-breath silence, as it glides next to you. But instead of passing by, it slides over you—rests its muscular coils on your body, its wedge-shaped head on your shoulder, forked tongue flickering your ear like ticker tape. Slowly, its cold oiled skin becomes warm from the heat of your body. After awhile, you fall asleep.




fortune cookies: a  :: nice cake is waiting for you!  ::  come back later / I’m

sleeping (cookies need sleep too)  ::  someone is reading your mind




Your classroom’s been hijacked by a wedding banquet. In the breezeway outside, you write on the walls with Dry Erase Marker. You draw a stick figure penis. A stick figure vagina. Freud is only a jumping-off point, you say. The representation vs. the real, you say. After class, you walk with one of the students past your old high school. You go inside the building, now converted into apartments, where you walk up exactly 17 flights of stairs. The next class waits for you at the top, sitting on the stairs, passing around a baby, unsure of what to do. Oh good, she’s here, they say, and hand the baby off to you.




that's when cowboy hulk ::  showed up / riding a werewolf  ::  trailed by a tiny 

spidervader hybrid / all :: of them armed with lightsabers




Instead of directing a conference you’re directing a wedding, where all the featured women poets have come to be married in their chic and willowy gowns. At the opening reception, you ask if they’ll sign their books for you, but it’s clear they have no idea who you are. The town’s so small you’re the volunteer sheriff, is who you are, and you fret about changing out of your red vest in time for the ceremony, about where you’ll stash your Smith & Wesson. You squeeze yourself into a tiny bathroom stall to put on a dress from your suitcase. All your black stockings have runs. Your gun’s too big for your beaded clutch.



Author Bio

Lee Ann Roripaugh is the author of Dandarians,On the Cusp of a Dangerous Year, Year of the Snake, and Beyond Heart Mountain. The current South Dakota State Poet Laureate, Roripaugh is a Professor of English at the University of South Dakota, where she serves as Director of Creative Writing and Editor-in-Chief of South Dakota Review.