Mudlark Poster No. 51 (2004)

Robin Leslie Jacobson

Lost and Found | If It Will Make a Poem
The Opposite of Seeds | Anagram | Rosebud | Curves
Not Ideas About the Woman but the Woman Herself

A native New Yorker and transplanted New Englander, Robin Leslie Jacobson began writing poetry when she moved to the San Francisco Bay Area in the mid-1990s. Robin teaches creative writing through Artists in the Schools, California Poets in the Schools, and Poets & Writers. A writer, editor, and designer for arts organizations and other nonprofits, she also coaches performing artists and has been recognized for her work as a director by the Bay Area Theater Critics Circle.

Robin’s poems and prose have appeared in Atlanta Review, Barnabe Mountain Review, Clackamas Literary Review, Convolvulus, Crab Orchard Review, The Montserrat Review, Poetry Flash, Runes, and other publications. She has received an American Pen Women Prize and Marin Arts Council grants, and has been a writer-in-residence at the Headlands Center for the Arts. Robin’s chapbook EYE DROPS was featured in Ruah, and her chapbook THE EXIT MARKED PARADISE (True North Press) has just been released.

Lost and Found

      ‘Things flow about so here!’ she said . . . after she had spent
      a minute or so in vainly pursuing a large bright thing, that looked
      sometimes like a doll and sometimes like a work-box, and was
      always in the shelf next above the one she was looking at.

                        — Lewis Carroll, Through The Looking-Glass

Milk cartons, small faces blurred as Renoirs,
my keys set down where? and I’m late, late.
Rice paper wishes crumpled, thrown on fires,
ask keys to speak not just when moving. Glint
on the desk a trick: paper clips snagged off
reckless drafts of poems, words I’d wanted held
together, widowed. Mates of all those lost
studs in my jewel box, unclasped, the felt
red lining’s false cheer. Buoys, our womensongs
of fishers come home from storms in the keys.
Those very important dates. The twenties gone
between ATM and car that wheezes
curbside. If like a lockpick I could guess
backwards, with my skate key I’d spin like stillness.

If It Will Make a Poem

Line yourself with blood
to feed each falling egg—

everywhere you look there is food,
no matter how dry things get:

Moss curls at meetings of stone, vines trail
from every cracked brick.

Deep as biology, that indiscriminate
ache—go couple with anything

if it will make a poem, risk
morning sickness at any hour. Crave.

Take in everything, make new selves
of whatever you combine with,

though there are so many
stillbirths. Crib deaths. Mounds of earth

smoothed into blank pages.

The Opposite of Seeds

I sort through my life like so many apples,
toss aside suffering as though it were rotten or green,
as though a worm could be wrong in the eating
or the sweet bite save me from my own core.
We’re the only tree that eats its own fruit,
says the Sherpa when we stop to rest.
If we walk too fast, we’ll leave our souls behind.
Fortunately, the lost train of thought
pulls into the station in the middle of the night
and even this far north the sun comes again,
baring the bodies of infants pressed under the snow
to die. The opposite of seeds.
Fortunately, I am not one of those buried,
not Anastasia—though they call me Princess.
This year the princess has turned into an onion,
hardier, something that can take the cold
and the heat. Dante would be proud.
I can almost hear him scribbling:
In the middle of the journey of my life
I found myself in darkening woods,
my way on the path lost. Oh, those woods—
savage and rough and loud—even now,
remembering, my eyes widen with fear. . . .

Actually, it’s a relief to blink first, finally stop
squinting against the sun as it stares
through a hole in the ozone like an eye
without lids. Eyes closed,
I feel my ears grow long as rhododendron leaves,
twitch visibly with the slightest rustle.
I let the world have its way—
patio sheened with moss and grass, weeds greening
everywhere a tremor has opened the earth
a blade’s width. If I leave it a season or two,
it will regress to wild, like a small child
left to his own devices. Sam curls up in my lap,
still sleepy and pajama-warm, asks me before I go,
Where’s the Wailing Wall? I can see it
in the desert—tears, oceans, how whales would
write the history of the world if only they had thumbs.
Echo in my chest, the god Doctor had me swallow
radioactive chocolate to see if he could see the hole
in my heart. I was only five, hooked words like strange
fish as they swam by—congenital, functional,
healed over
like ice on a fishing hole. Still
I live with echoes. Florence: at the pensione I dream
Leonardo’s dreams, flying machines
trying to lift off from the parchment like fantastic
insects. They bump along my arms and I slap them down
with gusts and gravity. Their mangled wings.
I wake to the smell of burnt ink
and earth. Somewhere beyond the garden,
Adam and Eve are still making love, forgetting
the new technology. Eve’s pacemaker
pops from its housing, swings inside her
like an apple on a branch end in a breeze.
The beat goes on. They don’t stop till they’ve come.
She calls the god Doctor, who finally gives her
a choice. She leaves things dangling.


      Wind rose: A predecessor to the compass rose. A meteorological diagram
      of wind direction and speed at a location over a period of time.

The question is wordiness, the easy answer
rowdiness. An old hand at storms, you’ve learned
to weather it. You tease out wind roses. Words

don’t always fall into line—sometimes rowdy,
in love with themselves, winded with long kisses
and often sound and fury. Wind

like walking out of a close place—a damp
dream, a rundown hotel—out into the actual
air. Even city monoxide seems fresh

without walls, you don’t mind
gusting along these streets like a sail
on a too-small boat. The world slips sideways

into rain, flower stalls folding up like origami.
Every few feet there are criers hawking
umbrellas. They come in on the wind

(never there till the first drop) and evaporate
as the world slips back—sleeves
of cut roses, their days-old velvet grooved

with rain. These forced blooms remind you
of the real thing—along your father’s
split rail fence the tangle of red you’ve loved

all your life. You watched him
weather it. In the hands of a good gardener,
words may open like roses.


      with a line from George Bradley

Archaeology, her desk. On the surface
last year’s phone log, but not
this year’s, buried in an avalanche.
Eraser rubbings curled like casualties.
A mock credit card, the fine print warning:
Charge It? God has already charged your sins
to Christ,
handed her by a mute seatmate
in an airplane struck by lightning
over the Rockies. Abandon all hope of salvation. . . .
For further information, write Normal,
A tiny tin of thick red ink.
A stone chop carved with an ideogram
of her name. A copy of Wings,
a play in which a woman cannot speak
the words she means to speak.
A snow globe from a place where
it never snows. A perpetual calendar
that will end in 2011. A canceled postcard
with the legend: My poems are my children.
Her work in progress, stuck on one verse
a Post-It scrawled start here.


      It was like nothing you remember.
                        — Gillian Conoley

Your feet crossed where calf and instep join,
your shawl violet twining up your thigh to blue,
hanging from the arm of your chair like Turner:
perfect execution of drapery and skin, light and shadow—
all without taking a lesson. Just look.
Mandalas everywhere, your dial watch ticking silently
in its quartz cave, the cones of stalagmites—you
can’t remember which grow up and which down
and would they be different below the equator
like whirlpools turning counter or clockwise?
Even your floor lamp curves, sinuous
as a spine. Stand up straight they told you,
but there isn’t a straight line in all the body.
Maybe not in all the world.

Not Ideas About the Woman but the Woman Herself

      after Wallace Stevens

The latest possible beginning of summer,
nine minutes into August, a high thin cry
that was coming from outside.

Again she sensed it trying to rise up
like a matin bird caught on its night perch
in the summer-fogged woods. It couldn’t fly,

nor she sleep, till the sun rose at six,
her battered bulk lulled by television snow. . . .
All the true light would be outside.

Till then, the vast ventriloquism of TV,
a papier-mâché mouth peeling in the mirror . . .
surely that cry was coming from outside.

No, that high thin cry—it was
her own mezzo cracking through,
blue moon setting colossal at daybreak,

the whole of her hummed to that rising
in her throat—rusty, ragged as old gauze
but there was no denying it anymore.

Copyright © Mudlark 2004
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