Liz Robbins

Diagnostic

 

The bride stands at the back
of the church, naked
in a blizzard dress. Up to
now, she’s been good as
the unborn, her soon-husband,
too: all the people will throw
good-luck rice at their heads.
One, an unbroken horse,
the other, an open umbrella.
One, on a bolt, the other, ready
to grant shade. They have yet
to know if the white beach will
grow into a desert. Up to now,
a thick fog, just the sound of
poured water, pails bailing.
Their plans swirl and eddy,
living as they do in an age
where big, permanent moves
are viewed as rash, antiquated.
She stands at the back of the
church, the music for her to
process goes, and the nave is
a found road. Water spills over
red rims. What feels mid-stream
is just the beginning. All the
beautiful blue bygones ahead.

Nightlife

 

Translucent fish,
all the new themes
nibble my heels.
What they remind me
is at a certain point,
nothing’s new.
Nightlife, we must
make a truce, as my
heart still blurs
at the thought of
foamed cups and
revelry. Whir of green
lights, the casual slide
of bodies. Saliva to
slick the pen tip,
how odd I should
miss a time that once
distressed me. But
sense never came
simply, a curse
or blessing. Between
my knees, I hold
the sieve of old
pictures, wilted leaves,
and their wildness
smells of sage.
A kind of kissed-wet
bitterness I’m still
unlearning.

Dream of the Asylum

 

Out here in the vast
Atlantic in a dinghy.
Rowing, rowing.
Unsure of supplies.
With a dagger,
I dig open tin cans
like hearts.
In the mornings, fog.
Nights, waves. Ten
feet high. I am
the blue and
the black, day
and night. There is
nothing else. What if
on the horizon,
a gigantic rock
appeared? Surely here,
people who know me.
I picture them slicing
roots for a fire,
covering me with
hides. Here, I will
be good.
Tiny blue berries
like songs to help
me sleep. A substitute
for rowing. And
soon, the view
again of blue
and fog and waves.
The Atlantic gone
nowhere, the Atlantic
inside.

Diagnostic

 

The girl’s knees. Tiny blond
hairs there. It’s summer: she wears
shorts or a two-piece. Her eyes
darting, small brown birds trapped
in a bush. When I go down to
the family room, she’s there, watching
grown-up cartoons. She hardly speaks.
I am not hers, married to her mother,
who pulls her hair up in a tail.
We get along, the mother gone
for another twelve-pack. Tiny blond
hairs at the fold of the knee. She
comes inside from running in a
sprinkler for hours, her lips blue.
She’s a little thing. The general
mood, suppressed. I’m running through
beers and feeling like I want to save
and buy a pony. I’m feeling what
matters is it all evens out. I’m in
the family room, heart adrift.
My job slinging mail, slid back
into the recesses. There’s the pink
what-if and the red go-ahead.
One thing’s sure. If not me, if not
soon, then somebody.

Female Trucker
–after the NYT article “Running on Fumes in North Dakota”
 _______________________
When I first came here, to the North Dakota
snow, I lived in my car, called by a television
talking head to the only place with jobs. I drive
trucks for oil, long roads with snow blowing
off frozen earth mounds. When you drive, you
just think of your hurts over and over, the night
sky a black quilt pulled high, little guilt fire
behind the eyes. In my trailer, I’m two extremes:
a vagrant, a prisoner. For a time, I lived free of
water. The local news uncovers a jogger’s body,
her clothing torn free, and my neighbors are men
without families. When did I last see a winged thing,
a honeybee? Nothing but those great mechanical
birds plunging their beaks deep into the split earth.
I drive from rig to rig and between, the bloodless
towns, devoid even of ghosts. I haven’t spoken to
my folks in years. Just toil and risk beneath a gray
ceiling, and debt following. The snow lasts all year.
Hypnotic, the cars, disembodied circles of light
moving toward, then past me. I dream for each
one escape. Everyone must work in this life, and
I’ve earned every inch of my snowbound sleep,
the endless white sheets into which I disappear.

Liz Robbins’ third collection, Freaked, won the 2014 Elixir Press Annual Poetry Award, judged by Bruce Bond. Her second collection, Play Button, won the 2010 Cider Press Review Book Award, judged by Patricia Smith. Poems are in recent or forthcoming issues of American Literary Review, Beloit Poetry Journal, Cortland Review, Cream City Review, Denver Quarterly, DIAGRAM, Kenyon Review Online, and River Styx. She’s an associate professor of creative writing at Flagler College in St. Augustine, Fla.

 

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