Here the street-noise fades,
grows dark, and Robinson’s
hearing becomes more keen
as the sounds of the city turn
vespertine: the soft susurrations
of his seersucker trousers,
the nasal hum of crepuscular bugs.
The stone Snow Babies atop
the beige brick gates—hats on
their heads, sleds at their feet—
look out of place in the mid-
summer heat. He can barely care
for himself. The same goes for
his wife. How could they entrust
themselves with another life?
No children scream. None catch
fireflies in a jar. Rumsey’s Playfield
lies far too far off the beaten track
for harried nannies to haul small
charges. To become the parents
we wished we’d had is rare.
The thought coalesces, hangs,
disappears: a snowflake
in the muggy air.
No butter. No bacon.
No sugar. No meat.
Robinson stands, hand
resting on the open door.
There’s a war on.
Inside the fridge,
quiet and deep, lies
a frosty metropolis.
Robinson finds solace
in its small whirring
motor, plays god
with its bare interior
full moon, that tiny sun.
Robinson can’t sleep.
Fanning himself with
chill air, Robinson
waits for a break-
through. The light
in the fridge coming on—
in the fridge clicking off.
The licorice stains his tongue
black. This cracks him up. The blue
pack makes him think of the plant’s
pinnate leaves and spiked blue
flowers, how they grow wild
around the Tijuana border.
He chews it medicinally,
stick after stick, hoping to smoke less,
to stop grinding his teeth into stubby
nubs. His temples twitch with each
chomp. This looks like a tic.
He imagines swallowing: seven years
to digest, seven years bad luck.
In the vertical
pool of the bathroom mirror,
his face appears to surface, green.
He smiles at his reflection: white teeth
black, gums grey, the face of a cheery,
leering skull. It’s All Saints’ Day—
Dia de los Muertos. Robinson thinks again
of Mexico. What it would be like to live
in a country with a longer memory,
a nation which eats tiny bits of death
for snacks: sugar coffins, bones made
of dough, anima pastries shaped like souls.
how he acts in such a way now
that he can almost hear them later:
We’d always seen it coming.
That Robinson—always saying
he was fine, like he wanted us
to believe him, but also like he
wanted us to see, wanted us
to ask why he sometimes seemed
smooth as a mustachioed actor,
other times like he was staging
some tell-tale gesture,
a man wearing a mask
and pointing to the mask.
a TV dinner, though he owns no TV,
and wouldn’t watch it if he did,
out the window toward the bridge,
now in mist, but there all the same.
gone again, maybe this time for good,
locked away in a ward at Langley Porter.
plays on the kitchen radio,
and the Pall Mall
in the ashtray—unfiltered, slow—smokes itself.
The oven timer dings and Robinson jumps,
alarming the cat at his feet.
the wrinkled foil back with a flick
of his finely-cuffed wrist, he reveals
turkey awash in gelatinous gravy,
whipped sweet potatoes,
and crumpled peas:
Steam rises thickly from the aluminum
tray, hot as breath
from a sleeping body,
damp as the fog settling over the Bay,
warm and moist in his face,
in his mouth
as he opens it to say:
This supper, this place, this life, this ring
are mere contingencies, not to be confused
in any way with real things.
is a founding editor of Rose Metal Press. Her first book is Reading With Oprah (2005), and her poems have appeared recently in AGNI On-line, Smartish Pace, Harvard Review, and Crab Orchard Review. The poems appearing in LOCUSPOINT are part of a linked collection in progress inspired by the life and work of Weldon Kees. Her essay "Live Nude Girl" appears in Twentysomething Essays by Twentysomething Writers (Random House, 2006).