by Timothy Robbins


You go to bed early. The typewriter
(which stutters) is locked in the closet
for fear it will write something
beautiful. It does anyway, clattering
on its own in the arms of all those empty
shirts, between the legs of all those
empty pants, pounding filled-out
words on an empty carriage.
You hardly notice, lost in thoughts
the age your father was when he
strung Christmas lights above the bed —
erotic constellations struck blind — sight
restored — off and on — off and on to
disco beats — the modest kinkiness
a limited imagination could invent.
He grew the beard that God rejected
as though it were a grain offering.
But you, you have more luck.
A Japanese kick boxer with a wink
that melts the Golden Calf emails you
he’s looking forward to touching your
beard, his thick hands still wrapped in
gauze reaching up. You have
a drawerful of snapshots: those
hands pulled into fists (a victim
protecting his soft guts) laced around
a delicate teacup, linked with his
girlfriend’s hands, in a stranglehold on
the long stem of a Budweiser,
spread to do fingertip pushups.

What He Wanted

What he wanted was to rap on cordless
phones in penthouses he could never rent
with Ansel Adams prints rising and cascading
above chrome-armed sofas. What he wanted
was men to subsidize silk shirts, thick belts
and boots that would shame Nancy Sinatra.
On lazy summer evenings he wanted to
hit softballs like they were hardballs
thrown by arms that had mastered
every curve but his — and then to take
all four bases at his leisure. He wanted
white boys (like me) whose bellies he could
palm like basketballs, tickling us in
cavernous showers. He wanted (as close
as he could come to spirituality) Brothers
whose prongs were dark priests blessing
his dark acolyte. He wanted overweight
women to rescue him from coke parties
and ask for no payment beyond his
agitation in their passenger seats.
He wanted to borrow and collect interest,
to be the only clothed dick at the great sex
parties of Chicago, to make as many men
as possible feel they’d just had an abortion,
to keep self-respect no matter what, to be
his own widow. As far as I know,
what he wanted, he got.

Revised Vision

You dream you’re trapped under
Strasbourg’s skyline, a modest
medieval graph with one breathtaking
spike, the unfinished cathedral’s
lone spire. It’s an ordinary un-lucid
dream, so when you see your
hometown courthouse tower
crowned with its absurd tree
gigantic on the horizon,
you run for your sanity — past
dropped jigsaw pieces of Indy’s
skyline, L.A.’s spears piercing
high smog, Cincinnati’s seven cats
each slit-eyeing you from its hilltop
perch. Herbal Life headquarters
with its huge marijuana-like leaf
is suddenly transformed to a perfect
structure descending from Heaven,
smoothly sliding into the emptiness
prepared for it, making you fell like
John, all too much like Saint John
on the mad island of Patmos.   

Missing Pieces

I’m driving and can’t locate
by glance or touch
a tape of the Big Band Era.

I sat with Shige on the couch
in his kitchen, unsaid sex
charged between us.
He got up and moved to
the drafty window.

On the road to Bloomington,
speeding on second-hand smoke,
I gasp when I reach the crest.
Southern Indiana
opens below me,
an ice-age virgin.

I wake in the night
and don’t recognize the wall.
What sounds like a boy breathing
beside me is my best friend’s bitch.

Those porn superstars lip-synching
Québécois come without friction —
sheer tautness of their erections.

I wake in the morning and see
how the wind has frozen the sky,
how the snow lies neglected
with the meaning of dreams.

A Trail for the Ears

It’s lucky I like being haunted
by tree frogs since
I have no say in the matter. By
haunted I mean, they are not
white noise to me.
And it is reassuring to hear them
every night without seeing
them. They are as I imagined the
soul when I used to imagine it.
Four o’clock this morning,
on my way back from harvesting
(stealing) flowers,
I tracked one frog’s broadcast
to the ornamental
tree in front of the building
that’s always trying
to sidle up to ours.
There was no doubt.
Those dark leaves were
singing to my innermost
ignorance, warning me that if
I insist on singing all night
every night whether study or
love or sex or drugs are the cause,
my voice too will be ragged.
I walked away with
my fistful of lilies, determined
not to fetch a flashlight.      

About the Author:

Tim Robbins

Timothy 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 in Adelaide Literary Magazine, Three New Poets, The James White Review, Slant, Main Street Rag, Two Thirds North, The Pinyon Review, Wisconsin Review, and others. Denny’s Arbor Vitae is his first published book of poetry. (Adelaide Books, 2017)