Rumpus Original Poetry: Two Poems by Alison C. Rollins





But for the Love of God

I am a woman. Undone,
A woman is a man.

I am a woman who gave birth
To the idea of a man who could

Outdo himself only if he tried.
To make love to my namesake

I take up my strap like arms, for
In fact, she wants no part of any man.

To piggy back on the
Mention of her pink:

I’m feelin’ myself.
I’m feelin’ myself.

There are women who have
Cut off whole parts of them-

Selves, and done it in
The name of love.

When I straddle a man
I too can get carried away.

In the holy book to come
I have a cow as a horse,

You will die from laughter
At the sight. I have beat

A thing to death and called it
Horseplay. As good as dead,

I’m not of this world but in it.
I began in no man’s land, a no-

Body. I waited for God to count me
In, to send me to a city made of stone.


Look Back at It 

A man of letters eyes me
from across the way.
He—Homo Erectus—sings
darkness back from the hills

of my unholy posterior.
The intoxicating clap of
twofold things—hands, cheeks,
lips clasped together.

Want takes hold of all creatures
big & small. Top to bottom
I trace his pointed supplications
with what god has entrusted to me

alone: a mouth that sways & drags,
wrested forth by the same song
of longing. I beg to be freed,
laden with a memory of horses.

And I—already half dead
take this man beside himself with
anguish. A trembling housed
in his single-minded fingers.

He dares me to beg for mercy
until pain turns into pleasure as
if something can be loved beyond
the certainty of change. It is true.

He loves me in every way possible,
my labyrinth of unending mirrors, my
singular unfolding of his hunger.
The waiting on him is hard. It wears on

me like a harness. Even the night must put
in work. Need & desire partition the day,
as I suck sugar from a wishbone’s head.
I mount & ride him into a horse,

no man can serve two masters.


Photograph of Alison C. Rollins by Maya Ayanna Darasaw.

Alison C. Rollins, born and raised in St. Louis city, currently works as the Lead Teaching and Learning Librarian for Colorado College. She is a 2019 National Endowment for the Arts Literature fellow. The recipient of a Pushcart Prize, her poems have appeared in American Poetry Review, Crazyhorse, Poetry, and elsewhere. A Cave Canem and Callaloo fellow, she is also a 2016 recipient of the Poetry Foundation’s Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Fellowship. In 2018 she was the recipient of a Rona Jaffe Writers' Award. Her debut poetry collection, Library of Small Catastrophes (2019), is with Copper Canyon Press. More from this author →