Spring 2014, Volume 16

Poetry by Liz Robbins

Halloween Party, 1993

And if I never forget the tiny wrapped
bars of chocolate
for children, am I good? Will it level my
wrongs like
a controlled burn? If the night is a just-
lit match and
its iron rust advances, will tomorrow be
green enough?
For now, a flamingo at the door, a beaked
mask. The night
advances questions behind statements:
free to say
anything when safe in husks. Yes, you've
arrived, the forbidden,
a pink question mark. I smell your
knuckles about
the Cabernet's body. But I am not so brave
as to dress
Carnival, the flamenco red exclaim. No,
the mood
internal: I'm dressed black, in squid ink.
I say
something so sarcastic it reveals me. But
is the present
tense enough to kill what advances? Frame
less wooden,
more glass? And you waiting there masked
with your hand
round the blood neck, my body near, good,
a spiraled key.


Lovers of a kind. Not the tango's entanglement—that completion—
but two distinct flamencos competing for duende. Two streams
of racing lava flow charring a green mountainside. My wrists
thrum as you approach, the heart's butterfly, pin slipped from 
a grenade. In dreams, your skin: the blue vein raised, the temple
translucence. At lunch, wolves circle. Bird carcass on each plate,
snapping at the other's. O, excess! Syringe of cocaine. Torn and
squeezed blood orange. How many nights gone, whitewashing
the spattered kiln, mud pots toppled? A garden maze snowed, one
given up, shivering at the start, the other given in, shivering at the
end. You, the frost car window scraped, me, the blue moss choking
graves. Lovers of a kind. One always the chalked cue clocking hard
the ball. The vibration aftermath. The tender tip, the bruise. No
matter if our positions switch, always the truth, untruth

Prayer of Longing

Always as the air turns its first cold,
what wrenches free: the idea of speeding
to Mexico. Forgive me my earlier,
the teen habitat planted deep: dark
outside now, wind currenting
leaf music. News inside of windows
boarded up. Twitched inside with
memories of stood-up
video games, boys in jeans,
hair fallen, eye sadness like
bandages unwrapped. Memory
a stood-up phone booth confessional,
my head awash in tongues, kicked aside
sheets on blue beds. Forgive me
my pieced-together, soul of latex.
Excuse-driven car, fast red lipstick
checked in mirrors, cigarette
rituals, pre-banishments. Wind blown.
Who do I want but what's gone, the
current currency, the hidden, the face close
to the river going inside . . . o, thought, come
back: raft of holy boys faded blue?

Weighted Average

Another school shooting.

And my husband who loves numbers can't join
the ratio of people to guns. I love this egg-filled country
less and less, the news gravity instead of grounding
releasing me high into an atmosphere where
the silver peaks of Greenland appeal. We are leaking
from the middle of nowhere, where the common
sense resides. Nearby, a dark-eyed boy in a basement,
piles belongings—t-shirts, comics—for a bonfire. In
his school backpack, two Glocks, a homemade grenade.
But tonight he sleeps hard on a mattress much like
ours, to the slow hum vibration of the machine
drenching his mother's clothes—

Grandfather at the Beach House

rubbed his hands together,
anticipating my aunt's
shortcake, though by then
his sense of smell so
gone, he might've seen
strawberry, imagined
roses. His glasses
miniature square windows,
us six grandkids bounding
in and out of frames. Sun
through the blinds reflecting
off his face, then lost
when he'd turn to speak.
From the back of the house,
the dryer always cycling
someone's damp sneakers.
In years I was too far
away, but a person can't
get close to everyone or
she'd never stop hurting.
The ocean and sky mixed
into a single blind thing
at night, as if applying
a unilateral approach to
everything were possible.
But no. Tiny white reminder
lights against the dark wash.




Liz Robbins' third collection,
Freaked, won the 2014 Elixir Press Annual Poetry Award, judged by Bruce Bond. Her second collection, Play Button, won the 2010 Cider Press Review Book Award, judged by Patricia Smith; her album Picked Strings is a recording of various poems from that collection. Her chapbook Girls Turned Like Dials won the 2012 YellowJacket Press prize. Poems are in recent or forthcoming issues of Beloit Poetry Journal, Cortland Review, Cream City Review, Denver Quarterly, Fourteen Hills, Grist, Hayden's Ferry Review, and The Kenyon Review. She's an associate professor of creative writing at Flagler College in St. Augustine, FL.