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Three Poems by Elizabeth Robinson

Photo by Nadia Chaudhury.


“Don’t try changing my convictions; I’m lucid.”

If I don’t give you the shirt off my back,
at least I can stand on the street corner and turn it

inside out for you.

You are invited to see the dander of the person who once
lived inside.

But even as I promise this, I feel
fatigue smothering me,

this labor of speaking to you who
are no longer.

I remember only my voice falling into your outstretched hand.
There was only my pledge:

the garment of your hand put asunder

inside the garment of my word, a garble.

Any day now I expect you to rise off the dirty cot

I’ve imagined for you. Lazarus, my beloved,

whose name I’ve surmised, whose genesis falls

before my sad stutter as my voice lifts you

with its mistaken hand, crying, “Get up, Lucifer!”


“Willy nilly runs the river
Without an original edition.”

I think about death
and so it appears, like a ghost with legs of uneven length.

Each step makes a noise, an uneven chatter
that turns just outside the window of my mind like a brook.

No, I am not troubled by this visitation because
death is a facsimile, a fundamental

awkwardness. All felicities

I bestow on so earnest an attempt at imitation. I imitate it
myself, with an accommodating stumble.

The susurrus of death tells me that nothing is cleanly divisible,
that life is a current that wends crookedly.

But the ghost beguiles and I cannot resist putting my hands in,
wrist-deep, pulling apart where I reach, finally, the stream

of the original,
the prime number, the place where parting cannot occur.

Indivisible or lopsided.


“Fate’s material secrecy”

is merely a phrase

from which you made a rhyme.
Sanguine, was it,

the cunning with which
you quashed time.

Then “red” is the color
ground from ore, iron

thrown dusty through the sun’s rays.
Dispersal, was it,

red blush on air
makes fatality sublime.


Elizabeth Robinson

Elizabeth Robinson is the author of eight books of poetry, most recently Under That Silky Roof and Apostrophe. She has won the National Poetry Series and the Fence Modern Poets Prize. She is co-editor of the EtherDome Chapbook series and Instance Press.


The Brooklyn Rail

SEPT 2007

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