Second Skin


Product Description

poems by

Maria Rouphail

ISBN: 978-1-59948-537-9, 70 pages, cover price: $14

Release date: November, 2015


About The Author

MRaphail_Px_bookstoreMaria Rouphail is a member of the faculty of the English Department at North Carolina State University, where she teaches courses in World Literature and serves as an academic adviser. She holds a Ph.D. in literature from The Ohio State University, and is a member of the North Carolina Writers’ Network and the North Carolina Poetry Society. She has won recognition by the NCPS, having twice been a finalist in the Poet Laureate competition. The author of Apertures, she has published in Pinesong, International Poetry Review, Main Street Rag, and One. She has garnered Honorable Mention in the Nazim Hikmet Poetry Festival competition. Second Skin is her newest collection of poems.


This is a wonderfully strong second book, vivid and compassionate in its range, with its memories unfolding in surprising, startling ways as if they were our own.  I don’t think I’ve ever read a second book of poetry that moved on so powerfully.

–John Balaban, author of Locusts at the End of Summer.


I’ve always preferred reviews using a writer’s own words. So in Maria Rouphail’s I offer three reasons you should read this book– its lushness (“blood and skin,/marrow and white nerve/ shining on the rocks”), its simplicity(“This quiet blueness could be a desert or the sea before dawn.”), and its tenderly observant heart, both of people who are close to her (“How I knew I could not stay with you/ when you turned your face toward the fire”) and of strangers who are not, and yet are (“The man lurches/toward the front of the bus… His hands clutch the grips on the seatbacks,/one after another.”). As do all of ours. Enough said.

–Lola Haskins


In Second Skin, Maria Rouphail takes a close look at family—her family, all families. Rouphail’s view is unflinching, but is taken with both grace and art. The poems are finely drawn testimonies to our passages: from childhood to adulthood to old age and the end of life; from innocence to experience—and so memory is just as important to this collection as is family. The poet asks, “Your life was in flames once.  / Where are you dreaming now?” You will want to know the answer.

–Tony Reevy (Old North, Passage)


From the first poem in Maria Rouphail’s Second Skin, ‘The Fig Tree,’ I found myself riven between thirst and satiation. Like her Biblical gardener, reading her poems I want another chance to have more of life, I want the “luxuriant limbs to bend with fruit” once again.  And so they do, in this, Rouphail’s first full-length book. Drawing from deep roots in Catholicism, mysticism, and Sufism, and drawing on inspiration from poets from Jane Kenyon to Taha Muhammed Ali, Tomas Tranströmer to Louise Bogan, Rouphail’s poems resonate with questions of heritage, encounters with death’s mysteries and motherhood, tapping a rootedness in earth and the comforts found in ordinary objects. So many of the poems plunge with joy into geologic forms, memory, childhood, and motherhood, I felt as though I had stepped into a new country, full of the deep patterns and colors of the world, spanning continents, centuries, and cultures with ligaments of connection.  These poems take a zigsag journey into chronic illness and pain, the hearts of women in war, in trouble, in love, and in vengefulness, the connections between motherhood and childhood. The discoveries here are discoveries of the world brought inward, considered, and transformed into light. Rouphail invites us into the world of a poet who’s uncovered rare powers late in life, connecting poetry’s creation–in a special room set apart with a sky-blue quilt–to the flow of life on a college campus, the patterns of DNA, physics, and human connection. Rouphail’s is a fresh new voice that should be widely heard. It will shift the earth under your feet, open up and swallow you whole.

— Marjorie Hudson, author of Accidental Birds of the Carolinas



For Reasons You Never Gave

We didn’t talk for six months.
I hadn’t seen you in five.
Then, standing at the periphery I spotted
you in the center of the usual
afternoon throng of adorers.

You broke away, seeing me, and strode
right up like a weather front
blowing my hair and shoulders
with words you used to weave
on brighter days.

As though we were, for a moment,
about to sit down under an umbrella again,

I’d march with you up and down the map
of your travels, nodding to the travail of your daughter-
in-law and the baby who will not go to sleep.

I figured fine, if we could stay in that
place where we did best you would know
how baseless had been your fear.

But here it is, already late August.
Purple phlox have stormed the mailbox.
Japanese stilt grass, too.
An occupying army of bees swarms
down the tender throats of the black and blue sage.


Do you suppose my sole wish
is to soothe your chronic anger?

Do you assume I give you my words
to cure you of your addiction to death?

Not for these do I hold you close
to my heart night after night.

I brave your fatal wrath
so I can keep on dreaming of poems.

The Riddle

The other in me,
A twin, a shadow,
Outside, to the left of my window.

What my peripheral eye takes in and knows—
Cirrus clouds on the southeast horizon,
High noon at the equinox at low latitude,
Sunrays that are knives on the retina.

What gives me birth and smells like my skin—
An aquamarine ocean, skeins of frangipani
evanescing from the breasts of women lying on a shore.

What I want to enter —
A room rippling with dark wind,
Someone waits, expecting me,
A slender brown-eyed foreigner,
A bird whose nest has fallen to the ground.

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