Seven Poems
Robin Robertson

   
   

 

After the Overdose

What surprised me most?
Coming home to an open door,
rose petals everywhere, the bed
incongruous with blood?
The paramedic's satchel
left behind in all the rush?

Or you in the hospital,
the crusted corners of your mouth,
the gown they'd put you in?
You never wore short sleeves,
not since you burned a name
into your arm with cigarettes.

Or, finally, that you weren't dead?
That surprised me. That regret.

 

Navigating North

He'd hitched out of Frankfurt
till the fog and the dark
turned the road to a loud ocean,
its headlights ropes of pearl.
He got out here—four hundred kilometers
from the sea—reminded of Aberdeen.

Three hours ago he'd been
fucking the chambermaid:
making her show the white of her teeth.
Then she fucked him;
the schnapps in the shot glass
shivering by the bed.

The adult channel had the room
flickering as she finished him off.
Swallowing his pride, he might have
glossed ten years ago,
tossing back his drink,
crashing it at the wall.

But here was a car graveyard in a pool
of sodium and glass. He'd cut himself
opening up the Audi he sat in now,
watching the lit sea
rock the light,
the night-fishers spilling their nets.

Stars fall from his hands,
his cut hands full of splinters
and herring-scales; his shirt slaked red.
He is navigating north
in a beached car; his hands shake
constellations on the floor.

 

Static

The storm shakes out its sheets
against the darkening window:
the glass flinches under thrown hail.
Unhinged, the television slips its hold,
streams into black and white
then silence, as the lines go down.
Her postcards stir on the shelf, tip over;
the lights of Calais trip out one by one.

He cannot tell her
how the geese scull back at twilight,
how the lighthouse walks its beam
across the trenches of the sea.
He cannot tell her how the open night
swings like a door without her,
how he is the lock
and she is the key.

 

Retreat

In the abandoned house
the chairs are tipped,
the coffee cups thick with spoor;
rolled mattresses shift and sound
as the springs return
to the shape of the sleeper.
I have carried the cold in from outside
so find sticks for the grate
and throw in my diaries,
one by one,
'86 to '74.
The years burn well, the wood roaring;
the fire turns the pages,
reads each book backwards.

Outside, the trees stand like smoke;
the moon declines
behind a scarf of cloud.
I want to go where I am not known,
where there are no signs,
where the snow squeaks like polystyrene
on a discontinued path to the dark
knot of the forest.
I want to go somewhere
to let out this life like warm water
and lie there
clean and cold:
the steady heart's diminuendo,
a bag of pipes' diminishing drone.

 

Ludic

She felt like liver
in the spilling dark
and I was hard as an arm,

lopped at the wrist,
raw and rich still
with the lucid milt.

We gape and we are healed:
her mouth on me
like wind on an open wound.

 

Blowing out the Light

After fourteen gins, the end
of this night's slipway
is an unmarked door, and this:
postcards and photographs tipped in
to the mirror's frame,
a few choice icons propped amongst ash,
cosmetics, spent matches;
the teddy bear is there
as if to cancel out the blister-pack of pills.
A poster of Paris, Doisneau's lovers;
a candle on the window sill.
Closing my eyes
I stitch the sheet with seed,
subside, and head for home.

 

Lithium

After the arc of ECT
and the blunt concussion of pills,
they gave him lithium to cling to—
the psychiatrist's stone.
A metal that floats on water,
must be kept in kerosene,
can be drawn into wire.
(He who had jumped in the harbor,
burnt his hair off,
been caught hanging from the light.)
He'd heard it was once used
to make hydrogen bombs,
but now was a coolant for nuclear reactors,
so he broke out of hospital barefoot
and walked ten miles to meet me in the snow.