TODD ROBINSON.June 2016


TODD ROBINSON

Photo by Jeff Sirkin


THE GIDDY CENTAUR

I am so giddy

I am a centaur

Says the facebook quiz

Give me a kiss

I tell the apple

And the hay bale

Breaks in my teeth

In the grassiest manner

Give me a kiss

I tell the hay bale

They pepper the fields

I canter a parking lot

And my halter falls off

It can’t be stopped

I am so giddy

The library approaches

It would like to shade me

But I am shivering already

My satchel is full of papers

Not business papers

Just piles of poems

I pass the library

I am galloping

With my four hooves

I trample a scrap of lawn

And become a rehab

Joke: stay off the grass

I am so giddy

I am giggling

Shivering always

I am easily persuaded

By a bare leg, some hair

There goes my mind

You are a dryad

I want to tell everyone

But my satchel is full of papers

As if I were a mail-centaur

I keep shivering

I am so giddy

Everywhere I look colts

Clatter their hooves clatter

for Heather Christle

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*** ** ***

A FRIEND OF BILL’S TAKES MORAL INVENTORY

At the House of No Hangovers, the bartender pours only coffee,

serenades me with the Isley Brothers every Sunday morning,

air-bass held high and funky, cooling me out for the sake of love.

So many stories and thought-lines in these rooms, the plate

of Christmas morning cocaine conjured again and again for

the sake of sobriety, or that Bemis benefit where two patronesses

got in a bidding war over a macaroni-and-cheese-box swastika.

One was married to me, drunk on Veuve Clicquot while a vape

idled in my tuxedo pocket. Now we’ve got some forgetting to do.

Over another saltless dinner I think of vegetarian Hitler and his

flavorless meals. He loved dogs and mountain air, like everybody.

I shudder to ponder a thousand nights, tube blaring, head lolling,

glass of scotch empty as a habit. When I was a kid I ogled comic

books featuring super dogs in red capes, their red houses sturdy

on asteroids, waiting for a whistle only they could hear. Manhattans

were like that for me, the crash of amber on ice turning my bones

to jelly. I sometimes feel life is a Tijuana bible, each page a four-color

kaleidoscope of human folly. B. bought two hundred Oxycontin

from his neighbor the widow. V. taught her little sister how to huff.

T. remodeled his heart, scar tissue filling those lonely chambers.

Next year will be summery as a clothesline full of winding sheets.

One speaker tells us she cannot bring herself to admit she’s a drunk.

Another wants a face full of gunpowder to silence his keening. My

sponsor is so tender with cheer and rue I am afraid he will be rent

by a passing Higgs boson. At the end of every session, the same

chant. Everything is of course nameless, and form an illusion,

and language slips on a foundation of rose petals, but I already

said that. I can’t wait until the next meeting, so I can say it again.

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*** ** ***

CUNNING/BAFFLING/POWERFUL

The girl on the addiction show has hair like a baby bird’s

and everyone can see her underwear when she falls down

all over the place in her wrinkled skirts. The ugly sidewalk

pitches like the deck of a ship on a Monday night in Missoula,

and the camera crew is surely complicit in my schadenfreude

a thousand miles south of ground zero, easy chair popped

back, a handful of popcorn uneaten, for once, in my palm.

She’s a real jewel-eyed weirdo, sort of smart under all that

mascara and molly, goofy in the right ways, artsy, fartsy,

easy, giggly, just like Angie, my crazy cousin from Kearney,

the one who sells trees to pizza delivery boys and only does

the hard stuff on New Year’s and Saturdays. So I’m sitting

here sixteen months past my last dose, mouth dusted with salt,

my lady petting her iSlab on the couch, wondering what’s right

in a world where camera crews tag along for some child’s wild

ride while I want to wrap her in a towel and drop her off at the

orphanage. At the intervention in the shitty hotel meeting room

everyone is crying and I think you poor little bird you have

broken a lot of fucking hearts and I’m crying (just a little) too

and remembering bowls and pills and bottles I’ve poured into

my own emptiness so when she agrees to go to rehab and gets

on the plane to tender music and jets over clouds piled up like

marshmallows and mushrooms I have a surge of hope and no

longer want to break another day’s boring light into rainbows

with mirrors and smoke but the dark on the television at the

windows in my brain and everywhere will always whisper—

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*** ** ***

ICE CREAM HEADACHE

Real nirvana in grandmother’s forgetting.

That farmstead with the shelterbelt run riot,

caravans of cars, all their chatter, drivers

humming, passengers’ little games of

why didn’t I leave there earlier, any

sunrise a new language to learn.

Real illusion, fire, suffering in the

withered barn. Corn crib rotting.

What do you think she feels in there?

Real spittle at the corner of her mouth,

real eczema, real head droop in the new

wheelchair, Delores and Margaret

also failing to rationalize their way

out. Reality pinches at the hip bone.

Real ice cream in the visitor’s room,

real statue of Calvary, wingbacks

and dark drapes. Real buzzard, real buzzkill.

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*** ** ***

LINES WRITTEN ON A POSTCARD OF CRISTO VELATO

–for Pete Miller

Slap it down like a toothache. All these fakers begging for numbness,

yet we all know a body zipped into itself, the itself collapsing invisibly

toward? Wake us to pre-dawn gloom with lampshade hangovers, some

translucent bell lowering itself—mazy arrangement of wires, blood wine

in a clay jar, a beatific retirement in the cloud condo. Given enough

breaths, you will go noir in the afternoon, nap to death, though nerve

endings may register the hard click of a casket lid. To paint sky blue,

I was taught, one must listen at the window, but apoptosis may undo

your patient ears and soon you will be plucking glass slivers from God’s

clock face. When (oh when), my friend, shall we jettison the façade

of hospital gown surety to drink some slugs of real nepenthe?

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*** ** ***

LANDSCAPE, STILL LIFE, PORTRAIT

October here

with its golden

cold and nostalgia

cracking its weight

against my hips,

the black dog

of what I once

dared to say

tagging me

through shifting

grass, crows

worrying fence

posts, you

coming home,

your pillow

redolent of

something

greener than

your eyes.

I search for

a purple marker

in an empty

drawer. I want

to draw a daylily

on your back,

write forgive me

in Palatino,

scrawl a ghazal

wherever you’ll

have it, but the

marker is gone,

and my fingers

have forgotten

their Arabic.

The garage door

moans open.

Your feet call

my name up

the stairs,

another dress

whispers itself

to the floor.

I study your

vellum, words

forgotten, the

poem about

to happen.

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Todd RobinsonTODD ROBINSON

Todd Robinson’s work has perplexed the pages of Sugar House Review, Prairie Schooner, Chiron Review, burntdistrict, Arc Poetry Magazine, Midwest Review, Margie, Southeast Review, Natural Bridge, great weather for MEDIA, and other venues. For the last decade he has taught in the Writer’s Workshop at the University of Nebraska-Omaha and in various local arts organizations. He holds a Ph.D. from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, where he won an Academy of American Poets prize. His first collection of poems, Note at Heart Rock, was published by Main Street Rag Press in 2012. He is a founding member of the Seven Doctors Project, served for a time as vice president of the board of the Backwaters Press, and was recently awarded a residency at the Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts.

 

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June 2016.TODD ROBINSON