The Brooklyn Rail

MAR 2020

All Issues
MAR 2020 Issue


Linseed Oil
     i.m John Ashbery

Seriously though, I don’t think you comprehend
The magnitude of what we’re looking at
Not enough pairs of white socks
The sounds of crows cawing behind us
Plans without maps
Maps without sufficient colors
As if our employment were merely temporary
Which I suppose it is
Like everything else in this joint

Hard to emerge from the long shadow of the master
Possibly impossible
A breeze picks up
Feeble sunlight grazes the leaves
The air smacks of distant fires
But we can still breathe
Then change into something more comfortable
You better believe it
Poking at memory with a stick

Who goes there?
Lend me your ears
Rome was not built overnight
Nothing better to do
In which case forget it
Time is an elastic band
For wrapping cables when you tear down the set
Easy to speak lightly of it later
Hard to save while using

What we say to each other
Should be plain and wide
Like a body at rest
But gets tripped up
In the welter of everything else
Not a bad thing
When you consider the great escape
Into thin air
Of our impressions

The wherewithal gets lost en route
The color of alphabet soup
Soon everyone is picking favorites
Or pushing up daisies
As the case may be
A case each of red and white vocabularies
To be opened whenever the spirit moves one
Early and often
Or after they’ve all gone home

The Morning Line

You get up
To take up
The line

Only just
Aware enough
To hear

Voices in air
Devoid of whereabouts
Interested only in sound

What is
The thought of it

Has many sides
Ten thousand
To be exact

Moments of identification
Begin with a body
At home or work

Possessions adhere
In a restricted economy
Under the sign

Capital I
But when you come
Face to face

With another
An absolutely other
All bets are off

And you incline
To the diagonal
Whereon the unknown

Tips the scales
In favor of
A reappraisal

Of all that has come before
A whiff of ozone
Signaling rain

An interruption
In your constitution
One morning

A text
From beyond the pale
Not the whole story

But a line of verse
That recurs
At interesting intervals

Like a month of Sundays
Until everything that is
Turns over

Goes back to sleep
In no time at all
Because it’s more than that

Parallel Lives
     i.m. Kevin Killian

Poetry is a waiting game
You wait for the line
To fill the stanza
With life
A stolen moment
From the distribution center
Of language
We just work here
The sound
Of a barking dog

Light the fuse
And a series of small explosions
Takes place
Like tin cans strung together
That dangle from the rear bumper
Of a car marked up
With soap
As line marries line
On into an unknowable future

Fill it with life
Look out the window
Walk to the corner
Pick up the phone
Decisions, decisions
Break for lunch
Dig the streets
Hum a tune
Be there for somebody
Somebody special

All along
That engine sound
PG&E is repairing the lines
Where they connect
Under the streets
We live in the city
The definite article
Celebrated in these lines
Whose center is everywhere
Whose edge is nowhere

After foraging for mushrooms
In the outlying forest
The bearded Russian
Sits on the bus
A backpack full of them
On his lap
Leningrad 1990
A memory carried forward
Past the lives of comrades
No longer with us

The poem arrives
Sooner or later
If at all
All the splendor
All the ardor
Spills out onto the table
The periodic table
The elements of our lives
Add up to
Minus a sudden breath

The Door Swings Open

I write one line
Then I forget it
What you read
Is the result
Of an ongoing process
Sun comes out
Leaves fall
Revolution simmers
Politics as usual
Sleeping dogs lie

Absolutely everything
Is a big idea
That slips your mind
When you least expect it
Remember the main thing
Alternating current
Forget about it
Day’s passage
Rhythm of instances
The trees chime in with

Energy builds
A succession of turnpikes
All over this land
Is a good idea
Somebody should try it sometime
Energy flagpoles
Leave nothing to happenstance
There’s more where that came from
Or so they say

The door swings open
To a late morning
World of possibility
When you forget your wallet
Glasses, phone & keys
And step into space
A fellow voyager
Reading time like a book
Making out distant stars
Free as a bird


Kit Robinson

Kit Robinson is the author of Thought Balloon (Roof), Leaves of Class (Chax), Marine Layer (BlazeVOX) and more than 20 other books of poetry. He lives in Berkeley, California.


The Brooklyn Rail

MAR 2020

All Issues