Happy birthday, Elizabeth Robinson! Celebrate by reading “Soft Eclipse,” which we published in 2020! We also nominated it for a Pushcart Prize. Also, read “Wear Away” and “Lost Gospel,” two Robinson poems we published in 2021!
It was indirection—without direction—which
is what we called mystery. As though it were an event.
But, now, no longer any events.
The usual sense of paradox collapsed like a box in
the rain—the usual, long gone sense of event.
So we wandered, without place, occurrence.
The birds fell back, the insects. Without their
click and hum, the soil dried.
Recording this reduces the utterance to a sense that
something had happened, but strangely nothing
had happened. This falling back.
As though fires lofted on winds, on us.
We imagined the fog, particulate and gray, suddenly
dropping like sand from the atmosphere.
How it stung on the skin, had we
but skin. Without which. The paradox of the
grotesque, the monstrous:
our passive eyes, our soft and gently rounded
teeth wandering around in our mouths.
otherwise, carefully clipping our nails to
the curve of our fingertips, our toes.
We said thus that we were defenseless.
Hmm, hideous on our blemishless faces.
Sentient creation dreads us. Elephantine
burnt by air. Combs
the rags of hair,
but not our hair.
We who are the horror of this flawlessly growing stillness.
We lay to rest all contradiction by which grow
necessary weeds. We who once sent our children
to fight the fires, to clothe us.
Monster, huge, fiend, ogre, the terms
by which a body nears
another body. This placid horizon,
the smell of it, suggesting
a prior breakdown. In our pallor, reclining,
we might previously
have considered looking up,
noting that snowflakes were first deformed and then
extinct. Likewise chocolate and bananas. Our velvet
and ugly tongues, we considered,
might have extended themselves for what
was not there. Not there.
So much we imagined. So much simultaneous with
mystery but no longer mystery, as we
ate all narrative in a fit of rage. Monsters,
we anoint ourselves with hunger.
And yet we go on,
fold up, fall down
but no, do not fall back, in a
creation now devoid of occurrence.
How is it that time continues despite
our arrogance? Click and hum
faltering back. Time
is a tableau of memory
remembering sleep. Without
Grief was, is, irrelevant rinsed
of the remediations grief offers.
We were all past tense and entirely
pure, insomniac, terrible,
having jumped recklessly from
the cliff of event. We who remain, and
we who remain without which.
The burdens of our beauty once stilled all
surfaces and, if there were a deforming
present tense, would still
do so. Mystery without expiration,
benign freak and demon. Miscreation
glossing our placid, upheld
Elizabeth Robinson is the author of several collections of poetry, most recently Rumor and Blue Heron. Robinson's book On Ghosts was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Award. She has been a winner of the National Poetry Series for Pure Descent and the Fence Modern Poets Prize for Apprehend. With Jennifer Phelps, Robinson co-edited Quo Anima: Innovation and Spirituality in Contemporary Women's Poetry.