FROM THE SONGS OF ROBERT


I’m of a sensible nostril, well I know
my way around these parts, the grievy fall,
the graven sky of winter & these spectral
compañeros (leafless) whom my love
informs me of, with hands at work upon
the scaffolding of light, the patched-up days;
I've seen the chipmunk in the yellow grass,
the blackbird dipped to crimson in the sun.

And yet to what end these luminous forms,
austere & sacramental in thread-bare
light, the sheer air through which she comes
unbidden, unannounced, an auburn hair
on the sleeve of my Members Only jacket,
brief handwritten note in the inside pocket?


Lavish November’s lost unmoored unnumbered  
leaves adrift or run aground where Robert
busies now hisself beneath the broken sky, 
the king thy father's wrack, majestically
& slowly, thin his arms & moving forth
& back to crimple a dramatic molt
of marigold, burnt sienna, blood-red,
unshrouding as he does bright napes of final       
green, belated & frail in sunlight spilt
like drops of water from a cracked bowl.

Obedient Robert bending to mottled earth,
gathering up the listless leaves, so loud
& weightless in his grasp, so full of smells––
& down through power lines & stark branches 
creaks lightly the late of afternoon, stills  
on his dry, forbearing hands amid
the widening catastrophe of autumn,
as down into his chest the cold air searches,
nudges loose his hurting like a word
he hears take wing on the sky above him.

Robert left alone among El Greco trees,
stepping through cathedrals of broken light,
past objects radiant, the snow-white mailbox 
with its flagrant arm, the hedge, the duplex 
nestled where the road curves down to meet   
the highway, & this is what Robert has.

Mimetic hoopla: unremarkable
Robert works the crowd:
there & here a plump word
nicely plopped, black pearl

of his lascivious graphite
strung across the buxom air as
'twixt well-fretted ladies
Robert shuttles, roguish gnat,

maintains his due distance 
in appraisal of this manifold
perfection or that, partly-veiled
promise of lush ministrations

autumnal Robert still aspires
to all appearances having
slipped the mind of his weaving
to ravel in those ears of hers,

those tiny auditoriums
he dreams his softest soft-shoe 
song-&-dance debut in, so
solemnly rehearsed it seems

to him not him, who would live
in dusky house-light, obscure
& winged & waiting still to hear
of her who still does not arrive. 
* *

So tiring of the spectral beat
the drum & fife of substance
the pretending-not-to-look askance,
Robert from the festive tumult

sneaked. Up to the upstairs:
quiet, bluish, menthe of smoke-
free air in cucumberous half-dark,
half-shrouded dormer's

blind mesh of moonleaves, dappled
bedspread, dust-silvered glass,
which Robert now approaches,
gravely, surfacing through fold

& tuck of fluent shadow
unto himself, inspects the damage
to his fanciful investment: smudge  
of salsa, rumpled coif, a few

beads missing, dry ashen slough
of face-paint sifting down
like snow upon his black satin
shirt-front, the cracked, grief-

white lips: lost delicate primate
looking back from a world
uncherished, un-called-
for: Robert's cardinal forfeit

burns in his baked-wide-open 
eyeballs, unctuous ovoid stigmata:
error, failure, heart's rot, a
crash of cymbals––harsh, obscene––

& him retreating to the walk-
in closet, moreover hunches he
alone & down among the grey
debris, shoe boxes, files, a faux-silk

off-white wedding gown
& further down, 'til cabined, 
cribbed, (there’s no such thing!) confined  
his reptile-brain stews in its own

fat renderings, itineraries
barbecuing, best laid plans
aboil & what he thinks he means
sloughed-off impossibilities:

apocalyptic twang, a string
of Robert's fretful lives
snaps: chatter of fallen leaves
quickly scattering––

poor butterfingered omnivore,
reluctant Robert loses it all
& over again, believing he will
not be coming back. Ever.

Sometime I think ol’ Robrit got it bad.
He roll an’ tumble, cry de whole night through,
Den wake up feelin’ so low down an’ sad,
He drink his coffee out a dead man shoe.

How come dat is? You reckon somethin’ broke?
De Lawd fo’get to put inside his head
What make a fella happy when he smoke
Or when his momma fix ‘im levnin’ bread?

Or maybe somethin’s dere what ain’t should be,
A extry room way down inside his heart,
An’ lonesome, lonesome, empty as a tree
Widdout no bird what make de mornin’ start.