Michael Robins

These Things Astonish Me

Feels like rain earshot of the air conditioning
& trees, the first motel doors swung open
toward a breakfast from the continent
I can’t identify. Really, the blank lamps
& morning voices, & the shimmer of the pool
you want a little warmer, a little more blue
could be anywhere & my impulse for run-ons
equal to my instinct to lift one foot, then
another, then let me the hell out of here
& I’m sorry, the morning woke as if someone
dropped in a dull quarter, opened my eyes,
started the game over which is to say
I begin with nothing. Oh one clean phrase
like a light I counted, that yesterday indulged
reels out, & back, hooks to the deep furrow
meaning the sun has up & decided to rise
again for me & everyone. I’ve this urge
pitching every breath with the words “my life”
as if I know a thing or two more than this:
my name was right here, in less than a flush
I’ll vanish from this courtyard borrowed
for my coffee, my blinking frame who begs
of the world just another forever image
life-saving & new. Please, oh please & there,
& this: treasure of yellow in its wings
therefore in its breast, the bird blurs past,
cuts the planet I’m still learning clean in half.



Escape into the Day

I’d like to begin with an easing, how just now
I stood outside in Kansas, & the earth’s failure
to lickety-split into the sun leaves the long,

Midwest line of morning somewhere I’d like
to crawl to, leave the slack chin & wrinkles
around my mouth, indecisive hair, & posture,

& handles. They’d discover my green shoes
where I’d waited for the spun path of the planet
I know so little about & was taken. I’d like

to abandon each darkness, for the distances
between me & that tree line to burst with crocus,
field mice, & the hawk overhead lazy enough

or just plain gratified from its last blessing
not to slice the air, for the atoms among us hims,
hers & thems to melt into a figure delicious,

awkward creatures of our elbows & knees
knocking our certain deaths a bit. Maybe
when elegy becomes the crystal veil for love

then my gesture toward love bears a gravity
tugging loss. I’m beyond last night’s wine,
& in my wire that wakes before dawn I’m tired,

good god, the sputtering of little irrelevance
before the new day as they say, as so many
satisfy the roads already with its peculiar music

not like birdsong but singing nonetheless
toward the middle of our life, my own half
circles under the eye & a straight fact anyway

I’m getting emotional. I’d like to contain
enough honesty here to cry, backing myself
into a corner but facts are facts & the light

begins to warm my head where I hunch
pure to this writing. Maybe we won’t
disappear completely today, the molecules

despite our common blindness surround us,
believe in their sole purpose of mingling,
making love. Breakfast, & before imagining

its tree, I hold the banana’s bruised crescent,
imperfect smile, hell this yellow telephone
beginning to whisper. Maybe you too

will let deliver each filament of your head,
relieve the fret of your shoulders, untie
both shoes & permit the remaining hours

to open the radiant flower on your tongue,
complete a promise to believe in our full,
fleeting bodies that the world bends for light.



Crossing Pontchartrain

Impulse says good morning & another
replies with nothing. For even the gentle tap,

knuckle & smile on the far side of the glass
I’m grateful. For what measures whole,

for what equals scrap, for the sky especially
the sky & its village of clouds. Horizon

kindled & more itself, for open plains
& my impulse too at the fence. Thank you

tussle & inconceivable nests, for an out
between spouts & the hard place. Impulse

to remain, to then improve our various selves
when days wave for good & contract. Snap

around the very sinking, knowing it a-okay
looking & failing to be the source of joy,

to speak with the very real trees, thimbles
greener than green in the brochure. Impulse

for pollen, yes pollen, its innumerable dusts
& sneezes we interrupt the hours to bless,

catalyst & shiver & the alley of the sun,
for its shoulders bare, for each & every one

the shimmer toward which we bask. Impulse
inventing the creek & one that resolves

to ignore. Impulse for the swim, turned on
full, sprinkler of the self to greet the rain

& thanks too the eye of language, circle
of assembly, feeding itself,  blushing buoyant

its cheek for more impulse on the way,
speaking of joy that’d happily eat this all

at breakfast, no minute’s pause, dividing
impulse not to say thank you, but then I do,

iota of a spider red, impulse we’ve yet to see
for my friends, my friends, friends pulsing

late & wide-eyed, the clear conversation
whistling, shaking love, spilling out in praise.


Michael Robins is the author of three collections of poetry, most recently In Memory of
Brilliance & Value
 (Saturnalia Books, 2015). He teaches literature and creative writing at
Columbia College Chicago. For more information, visit www.michaelrobins.org