~Selected by Clara Jane Hallar, assistant editor, poetry
~This poem was previously published in Spoon River Quarterly (1991).
Dialing and Dolor
la vida es sueño
Selena’s on the telephone. Richard
is in conference. Philip’s on hold.
Rosalie is calling. Kevin
is dialing. Mark is listening.
At the front desk Pat is decding
whether to be masculine or feminine.
Most of us have already made this decision,
some have lived to regret it.
And where is Caroline? Philip calls Selena,
there’s no answer. He calls Bob, but
Caroline’s not there. He calls me,
I’m holding for an open line. “Mark, is Caroline there.”
She is not. She is in the conference room,
speaking to herself, practicing eye contact,
practicing doing without cigarettes
for an hour and a half, studying inflections, weighing nuance.
Through the skylight the sun lights
without connection or warmth; it’s working on a
concept, it’s on to something big. The sun is so much
like light it’s almost uncanny,
As if masculine were feminine,
or dialing listening, sometimes there’s just
the warm contours of the telephone
when you’ve been on hold.
~This poem was previously published in Pleiades (1992).
Grass, bowed by its length,
Could be its own scythe.
The fires hang, homes hold,
Hills crest, questions
Are left on the window sill
Like a pie there, as if
All we think we know is only
That pie we’ve practically
Anticipated, brimming ourselves,
The tongue’s recall of apples, warm.
Problems relax with us
Like a furrow left fallow at plough time;
We sit on the porch watching November,
Waiting out neglect. We’re left,
Left, with leaves we’d rather
The wind would gather. We drift into attics,
Check the hay for loft: Questions are loitering
On the window in the kitchen like a
Windfall of fruit or a pie slowly curving
~This poem was previously published in The Madison Review (1980).
We live so near
an aging world
in which our garters
slip; the bones
of billboards, superstructs
drive-in movie screens
the fallow wheat
THE STORY BEHIND THE POEMS
It’s curious to look at and think about these pieces from two different periods (I’d say “eras” just to be grandiose, but…) of my life, and try to recapture the impetus and spirit behind them. There was an office, and there was a train. Harder still to recall what I felt about them when I’d finished (yes, abandoned would be at least equally appropriate) them, but I’m fairly certain I was quite happy with them, “Indolence” and “McCloud” especially.
And then I moved on. At the time of “McCloud River” I had a baby daughter, about one year old, and she now has her own daughter. And that gets me started thinking about time, a muddy concept that tends to insinuate itself into much of my writing today, and well, isn’t that odd, appears to be puttering about in a couple of the poems in this issue.
ABOUT BRUCE ROBINSON
Work by Bruce Robinson has appeared in journals such as Poetry Australia, Fiction, Onthebus, Greenfield Review, Opera Journal, Yo-NewYork!, and Fourth River/Tributaries, as well as in the publications listed above. With considerable effort, he manages to keep his Google drive storage at about 97% of capacity.