By Timothy Robbins Wichita7 miles above Wichita,
19 years from Julie saying,
“If he breaks your heart,
he’s dead meat.” And me
thinking, “Who eats
my heart, eats lean meat.”
How to convert years to
miles? The equation is longer
than the route from doubt to
faith and back. What about
the conversion from lousy
boyfriend to poem fodder?
19 years over Kansas, wondering
how low we’d have to dip
to drag impalpable dark across
wheat, to harvest/behead
the crop with our wings.
Having screwed me once, Tyler
gave my belly a gym tap.
My navel was neat as an
isolated grain. Words in the
plane are tight as my form pressed
to the curving wall. Why did I
never notice before? Julie’s the
stuff of jet fighters. Winter’s TaleThe snow is clean, dinted in
few places. Too few, some would
say. He calls himself Cory.
It’s the usual story insofar as it
features a Trojan that hinders
circulation, unusual in that
he’ll stay all night, if I give him
a lift after breakfast. His middle
and index fingers are like a
child that goes naked wherever
it wants. My head flops on
a broken neck. At the Probation and Parole
Division everyone’s been
waiting too long: a white kid
doing his best to spread the flu,
two black men who seem to know
each other and a third black guy
who comes in s tamping snow off
his boots (they seem to know him
too), a heavyset white guy in
overalls with heavy metal in his ears,
a woman dandling a plump pink
bag on her knees. Cory leans close,
(our heads on the pillow for two
hours’ sleep) mutters his real
name, says, “If I’m not back in
30 go to the window and ask what’s
wrong.” “40,” I think, “then I
make my escape.” He’s freeing the car from
a snowbank with a swagger
that says I had nothing to
fear from thugs at the jailhouse.
Four hours later his voice on
the phone wears the same
assurance. His father has barred
him from the prison of home.
He thinks I’ll be his next warden. Ways1.
He tried to be blind.
A sleep-mask appeared temple to temple.
The right lobe asked the left lobe,
“Is it time to get up?”
He lifted the left side of the mask,
opened his left eye just enough
to see the red numbers on the clock.
I’ve come all the way from Sodom
I wrote before I went there.I thought installing The Joy of Gay Sex
on my dorm room shelf would bring luckthat would embarrass Simon Peter’s
haul (Brent in a black fishnet tank-toppulling the taut net to the boat).
Grandfather of many waters.What Muir said of lordly chickens
I say of poems that find themselves“discussing the wonder in charming
chatter.” The way to a city burningnot from judgment but from passion:
Never tire of taming his cowlick,of pulling the beloved comb from his
rounded pocket (what fatuous foolslove combs?) and sailing it
like a grad’s cap into the very sunthat worried Ben Franklin.
The phlebotomist hurt my vein.
I call her the Bruiser.
The phlebotomist hurt my vein.
I call her the Bruiser.
She’s mad at me because
I am both beggar and chooser.My mother came to visit.
She pushed my man to tears.
My mother came to visit.
She pushed my man to tears
He’s never forgiven what
he’s kept hushed all these years. VulgateHappiness is embodied
in the cat, a stray or a
neighbor’s pet, that crept
in from the balcony,
knocked the lowest
hanging ball from the
Christmas tree, batted
it across the carpet
without breaking it, lost
interest, tilted its
head back and, taking
me for Jerome, (I was
reading at my desk in
nothing but a towel)
did its best to sprout a
tawny mane. I love
Genesis. Like me, it is
inconsistent and mysterious.
Like me, it is the echo of
ancient psychologies and
fallacies stitched together.
Its beasts make me think
of the fox puppet my
grandmother sewed from
corduroy and felt. The
seams are like my scars
which I like to feel with
my fingers, imagining they
are the stitches on a purse
which hides coins
struck from the first
sunless day’s light. At the
brewpub, I loosen its mouth
and pour primordial
dimes on the bar. The
clatter catches your attention. One Summer in BloomingtonOn the front porch swing, keeping time
mid-air, Brent sings The Tennessee Stud.
The Tennessee Mare shudders in my withers,
Boone’s Farm is passed around, and Zot
square dances on the empty cans.
At the attic window Tim releases a stream,
amber unseen in the dark, pooling in the grass
with a calming plash. He wakes as night
shivers into day. A woman who wandered
in from the street is riding him Western style.
I crouch in chiggers outside a room
where two guys talk of eating pussy.
Ever since they were boys they’ve longed to eat pussy.
I picture them lifting their faces from half disks
of melon, pinkish water dripping from their chins.
Robin adopts a dumpster cat.
At night, nourishing its fleas,
it scratches for a teat in my hair.
The cross-dresser (one of the pussy-eaters)
filches chloroform from the Chem lab —
passes out with the glass stopper like a diamond in his palm.
“Dead meat in a skirt,” the others laugh.
Then they pass out too. The kitten kisses the abandoned rag,
goes berserk and is prophetically blind
for two weeks. Natalie and I hike to the quarries.
I brush her hair. She brushes mine.
We strip and lay clothes and limbs
on the rocks to sun. She shows and explains
her anatomy much as my father once tried
to elucidate the Impala’s engine.
Across a quarry wall a townie has painted
in momentous letters SATAN’S BATHTUB.
Cain’s Cathedral is more like it — rocks that were
rejected, rocks that long to burrow back into darkness,
their saint, a boy who, diving to the bottom,
wedged his head between two blocks,
releasing blood that rose like smoke
through contaminated water.
She was not beautiful, but it was Tim’s duty to love her.
I was not a woman, but it was his duty to love me.
I try to remember being inside Suzanne.
I remember the blacklight and waiting on the floor
while she inserted an IUD. The blue dim,
her posture, her pallor taunted the poster of Picasso’s
Old Guitarist taped to the wall.
I remember the honed edge of her pelvis, the nicotine
on her lips, the uncertain shape of her breasts, their
disturbing shiftiness, like faces in dreams or
groceries in the trunk. The spasm was
instantaneous, unworthy of the word spasm.
She must have felt even less
than that tickle and loss in my groin.
I remember thinking later how gentle life would be
if that’s all there was to it.
(It was Ted, Robin and the Tennessee Stud
at the top of the stairs when Ted sighed,
“I’d kill for a blow job.”
And I thought, “No need to be rash.”)
I used to say it took days to prepare
to drop acid. I was as strict as a Catholic
when it comes to communion,
reading Ginsberg and Eckhart and fasting beforehand.
We retreated to winter woods,
vaguely evoking a mini ice age,
squatted in a teepee and waited for the white man’s
senseless re-ordering of the senses,
like spring coming, like leaves appearing.
Seeing no difference between evergreens laden
with snow and orange trees heavy with fruit,
we plucked and ate. The handsome pussy-eater and I
wandered off together and lay on a ridge,
lulled by swaying branches, pantheists at a strip show,
for once excited by the same nakedness. About the Author:Tim Robbins teaches ESL and does freelance translation in Wisconsin. He has a BA in French and an MA in Applied Linguistics from Indiana University. He has been a regular contributor to “Hanging Loose” since 1978. His poems have also appeared appeared in “Three New Poets,” “The James White Review,” “Slant,” “Main Street Rag,” “Two Thirds North,” “The Pinyon Review,” “Wisconsin Review,” and others. His collection of poems “Denny’s Arbor Vitae: Poetic Memoirs” was published by Adelaide Books in 2017.