The Poetry of Joanna Roche

Joseph Cornell, Object (Roses des Vents), 1942–53.

A selection of poems from Joanna Roche’s recently released chapbook “”

Across the Aisle
(I miss you Avalokiteshvara)

What signal were you
flashing me in the green
corridors of the Norton Simon?
What mudra of “you make me crazy”
could I ever come up with that
would put me back in time,
your bronze butt facing me all
these many years?

We posed on the wooden stage
of never leaving.
Did you know the hole
in your lost-wax head would be
so large?

I was birthed before
you and from no man’s head
but we joined and our minds
touched in time.


The hinge moment
hits after midnight.
From deep sleep remembering
pilgrimage past and how
those halves of my shell
fit inexplicably, perfectly.

Connected to the ancient
past of an ancient city.
Do I feel at home because
here the past is alive
and legends meet our eyes,

Joseph Cornell, Cassiopeia 1 (Verso), 1960.

Ode to the Last Outline or What I Learned From Joseph Cornell

Look at objects across history.

What has Cornell taught?

To look inside,
to connect,
to cross time for those we love,
to see objects as beyond things 
to meanings.

Reckoning objects,
we glimpse beyond.
Save. Recover. Reignite.
New uses and understandings
between old and now.

What stays is so dear 
and soon departed.

The histories of
forgotten lives
and loves and sometimes art
brings my tears
into motion, into time
to speak.

Fragments on 4th Ave.

The streets speak:
how do we listen?
Do we remember our
grandmothers’ kitchens,
lost fruit of our mothers’ childhood?

You showed me, Constance,
the structures behind
those walls, how mind—and art
are built.

Lifetimes of assembling
selves, like Borges’s “Circular Ruins,”
open-air conjurings of thought
materialized in we.

Joanna Roche is a writer and a teacher. A professor at CSU Fullerton, she specializes in 20th and 21st century art and holds a PhD in Art History from UCLA and a BA in Anthropology from Brandeis University. Areas of research include contemporary performance art, assemblage art, and the interrelation of memory and artistic process. She is the author of numerous essays and reviews on contemporary art, as well as two chapbooks. The poems included here are from her second chapbook,, available in print and ebook.