June 13, 2021

Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer


What could be more valuable
than nothing? The nothing that
frames “The Thinker,” the nothing
that holds every bowl,
every vase, every bust, every thought.
Let others buy the clay, the steel,
the papier-mâché. I will be satisfied
with nothing more than nothing.
Nothing pleases me. Nothing
enchants me. Nothing,
as Heisenberg says,
has a weight. Just think
of the space here beside me
where you are not.
If someone asks me why
I have a five-by-five-foot
empty space taped off in my home
with plaque that says I Am,
it is because I am so in love
with nothing. Imagine it—
nothing, the color of happiness,
nothing, the size of love,
nothing, the shape of god.

from Poets Respond
June 13, 2021


Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer: “I have long had a love affair with nothing—and so it was that when my friend Holiday Mathis sent me this article about an Italian sculptor who sold an ‘immaterial sculpture’ for over $18,000, well, it thrilled me. It’s so absurd. I have honored it with a wordless poem now featured in an invisible book on my shelves which you can buy for only $10,000 (OBO)—and with this poem, too.” (web)

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September 20, 2020

Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer


Real change, enduring change, happens one step at a time.
—Ruth Bader Ginsburg, as quoted in Notorious RBG

So let me take one step right now,
one step toward respect.
And give me strength to take another
toward clarity. And though
my feet might feel like stones, let
me take another step toward justice.
And another toward equity. And another
toward truth. And though my legs
may feel leaden and slow, though someone
else may step on my toes, may I inch
toward forgiveness. May every step
be toward a bridge. Enough divisiveness.
And as I go, may I find joy in the stepping,
grace in the edging toward great change.
But if there’s little joy, let me step anyway.
Then take another step. And another. And another.

from Poets Respond
September 20, 2020


Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer: “I think of all the ways that this one woman, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, changed the world as we know it now. ‘Fight for the things you care about,’ she said, ‘but do it in a way that will lead others to join you.’ Yes. Yes. Thank you, RBG, for teaching us another way to fight.” (web)

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March 15, 2020

Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer


That was the afternoon
we watched the avalanches—
dozens and dozens of them
flowing over the cliff bands.
How beautiful they were
from a distance—
bright falls of billowing snow.
They began as dark rumble,
then burst into plume, into rush.
Unstoppable they were.
Powerful. Inevitable.
Such a gift to feel humbled,
to exult in forces
greater than our own.

Later that night, reading
the tumbling graphs,
the sliding accounts,
the unforgiving reports,
I began to understand
the scale of the cliff.

And as everything
I thought I knew
slid over the escarpments
of comprehension,
how clear it all became.
What really matters.
How we’re all in this together.

from Poets Respond
March 15, 2020


Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer: “How clear it becomes that we are one organism, how profoundly our actions affect the whole.” (web)

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January 30, 2020

Ekphrastic Challenge, December 2019: Editor’s Choice


photo of letters left in a snowy tree

Image: “Bound” by Natalie Seabolt. “Seeking Purpose” was written by Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer for Rattle’s Ekphrastic Challenge, December 2019, and selected as the Editor’s Choice.

[download: PDF / JPG]


Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer


The golden opportunity you are seeking is in yourself. It is not in your environment; it is not in luck or chance, or the help of others; it is in yourself alone.
—Orison Swett Marden

There were no letters tucked in the trees today,
no handwritten notes tied with red string.
No epistles, no missives, no communiques.

Some days, a woman wishes the world
would be more direct, more intimate, would just tell her
her purpose, would spell it out in a language she knows.

Include sketches, clear directives. Write her name
on the envelopes so there can be no mistake.
Leave the letters in a place she will find them.

But no. Today, the only message in the trees
is snow. She tries to make meaning of it.
Laughs at the impulse. Reminds herself, Snow is snow.

Isn’t it like her to look for meaning?
Next thing you know, she’ll be looking
for a message in the clouds. In rivers. In books.

from Ekphrastic Challenge
December 2019, Editor’s Choice


Comment from the editor, Timothy Green: “Maybe it’s that the photograph is so straightforward, but turning it into an image of what isn’t there was a brilliant choice that pushes the original content even further. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the universe really did send us messages this clear? But of course it doesn’t, a truth that now feels oddly empowering, thanks to the subtle tone of the poem. Let’s go out and make some meaning of our own.”

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December 13, 2018

Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer


Two hundred ninety million.
That’s how many dollars Monsanto
was ordered to pay the dying man

when the company failed to warn him
about how the poison they made
to kill weeds would also kill him.

Two hundred ninety million.
That’s how many miles
the Voyager 2 moves away

from the earth every year. And though
it was made to do so—to travel
past our sun’s magnetic field—who

could blame it for moving away
from this dying planet at
thirty-four thousand one hundred ninety-one

miles per hour. If that number were dollars
today, it would be equivalent to eight thousand dollars
in 1977 when the Voyager 2 was launched.

And eight thousand, that’s how many sacred
elephants there were on the banks
of the Six Tusker Lake in the Himalaya,

elephants who flew in the air, and sages say
the Buddha himself was once born as son
to the chief of these eight thousand elephants.

Yes, sacred and magical things happen here
on the earth, despite the greed,
despite the poison. I was seven

when the Voyager 2 left, and since then
it’s traveled eighteen and a half billion miles.
If those miles were pounds,

that would equal more than a million
large African elephants, though in all of Africa,
there are only four hundred fifteen thousand

elephants left, down from five million
just a hundred years ago. What I am saying
is that as the Voyager 2 enters interstellar space

things are strange here on Earth, and we seem
hellbent on our own destruction, but I
am so grateful to be here, still. Even as

the Voyager 2 hurtles beyond the heliosphere,
I find myself still falling in love
with the twenty-seven thousand three hundred seventy-five

days I have to live,
and the earth’s twelve thousand
species of grass, and the five thousand stars

visible to the naked eye and the two hundred six
bones in the body, all of them working to help
us run toward beauty, yes, grateful

for two hands to hold one beloved face
and, amidst all this enormity, the absolute absence
of sufficient words to say how holy, how incalculable is love,

and how marvelous, really, to stare up
into the familiar night sky and imagine
all boundaries we’re just beginning to cross.

from Poets Respond
December 13, 2018


Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer: “It was so thrilling to hear about the Voyager 2 and its travels beyond the heliosphere. Imagine! Out where matter is made from other stars that exploded 5-15 million years ago! But when NPR broke it down in numbers, trying to make the Voyager 2’s feat more accessible, the numbers were still too large to mean anything to me, so I figured I’d find ways to make the numbers more personal.” (web)

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August 31, 2017

Ekphrastic Challenge, July 2017: Editor’s Choice


Portrait of a Kitchen by Samantha Gee

Image: “Portrait of a Kitchen” by Samantha Gee. “After Cleaning the Kitchen Again, He Realizes” was written by Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer for Rattle’s Ekphrastic Challenge, July 2017, and selected as the Editor’s Choice.

[download: PDF / JPG]


Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer


Don’t look in the sink for happiness.
It sounds so obvious. But even the shiniest,
cleanest sink is still only a sink.
Don’t look in the cupboards.
Don’t look in the fridge. Don’t look
to the tile floor—though this
is a place we’ve danced before.
Even the stovetop, the home of flame
and chemical change—the burners
are not what we seek. Of course
we look to the kitchen. The center
of everything. Don’t look out
the open window. Don’t expect
from the empty green vase.
The only thing that’s ever mattered
were the lovers in this space.
No matter how clean the counters.
No matter how soft the breeze.
It’s us, my love, it’s us that’s missing.
It’s us that we most need.

Ekphrastic Challenge, July 2017
Editor’s Choice

[download audio]


Comment from the editor, Timothy Green, on this selection: “Samantha Gee’s painting generated a wide range of responses—some saw nostalgic breakfasts, others saw the loneliness of retirement, and many saw ghosts, which was surprising, because I don’t see ghosts at all. Very few of the 300 entries were love poems, though. Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer hooked me with that first line, which does indeed ‘sound so obvious’—so simple and wise that I think I must have read it before, but it turns out no one has. Lines like that are rare, as are fresh and authentic love poems like these. It fit the painting, and lifted my spirits, frankly. I hope it lifts yours, too.”

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December 26, 2015

Ekphrastic Challenge, November 2015: Editor’s Choice


Photograph by Meghan Tutolo
Painting by Meghan Tutolo. “Divining” was written by Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer for Rattle’s Ekphrastic Challenge, November 2015, and selected by Timothy Green as the Editor’s Choice winner.

[download broadside]


Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer


Not just on the wall—
the writing’s on the sky,
the river, the bridge, your hands.
Wouldn’t you love to believe
all those blue and red lines
make a map, and if only
you could read those lines,
you might know where to go
from here? Yes, we’re lost
and wrinkled and surely doomed,
but god, in this moment
between concerns, isn’t it beautiful,
this place where we wander,
this hour when gold gathers
just before the plum of night?

Ekphrastic Challenge, November 2015
Editor’s Choice Winner

[download audio]


Comment from the editor, Timothy Green: “Quite simply, this is one of the most beautiful poems I’ve read in a while. Those last two lines demand to be re-read aloud. The poem is also clearly a genuine meditation on the painting, evoking both the overall emotion of the image, and being attentive to the finer details. The one expands upon the other, making them a perfect pair.”

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