Poem of the Week | January 18, 2016

This week we offer a new poem by Christine Robbins. Robbins received an MFA in creative writing from the Rainier Writing Workshop in 2012. Her poems have been recently published or are forthcoming in journals including Barrow Street, The Georgia Review, The Los Angeles Review, and Willow Springs. She lives and works in Olympia, Washington.
Author’s note:

When I hear a story that harrows me, I want to think “I’m with you.” I want to let my heart be broken. But if you have suffered in ways that I can only imagine at this time, is it presumptuous of me to think I’m with you? And if I am with you – am I with the child, the mother, the person who wields the blade? If I say we’re all connected – that’s also partly terrifying. Given our histories, what parts of ourselves do we feed?
I wrote this poem after someone I respect told me that my speech disorder was due to my karma for talking too much. I hope I’ve revised against defensiveness. And I’ve tried to write in a way that might bring you toward me. In the end, I’m left asking myself what it is to stand behind humanity, in our brokenness.


Gone, gone, to the other side gone


I’ll keep the rotting porch –
Its splinters damp and bloating.
The browning fronds, the wild rose
Repeated in the dirt.


A mother lost her sight
In the dead fields.
Women have entered


Holes of nothing. Always
An end and no end but some
Have spread their fingers on a child’s neck
To take another moment


From the moving blade.
Call the birds no body. Each
Is the color of every dying leaf.
Pears fall and bruise


And they sound
Like dead birds landing.


Sea and the coffin ships,
Slave ships, ships and the families
Killed on shore. Weight
Of this land – weight


Of bodies in a cart –
Oh, we wilt
And the weight grows strong.
The dead


Are charged with their dying.
The living


Falling sometimes
In the always falling light.
No sound, no sight. I want


The turning pear. Juice
Grows heavy when
Its world begins to shrink.