Four Poems

by Andrew Robin


Ant climbs down from the cliffs to the beach, where Robin is flipping flakes of seaweed for fleas. “I have a bone to pick with you,” Ant says. “And I with you,” says Robin. They must say these things, for who might be listening? It is untoward for an insect to be in love with a bird, and for a bird to love one particular ant so dearly.

But it cannot be helped. You love who you love, and there is no answer for it. So, Robin and Ant perch together in the salted air looking over the cannery ruins, while their spirits fuse and the green waves lap the smaller stones. Life is complicated.

No, it’s simple.

There is a point at which even a snail reaches the borders of loneliness. And thrusts a gleaming horn out into the light, asking, Where are those who said they would always know me? And sees, suddenly in the fenceside vetch: another, hauling its own lonesome shell through the afternoon. And follows that other down the day, thinking, At last you have come for me.

Follows and follows, until finally with its feelers it touches the rough cedar plank of the fence, where shadow dissolves, and one is left alone without question.

And begins to love oneself, or doesn’t.

Clam and Geoduck lie together in the deep tidal mud, enveloped, buoyed by their two silences. Some love is like this: the quiet reaching out from time to time of siphons through the muck, which touch in the pungent dark and know.

While Cricket, who can be silent but cannot bear silence, clasps a dry grass stalk at the estuary’s edge, chirruping, bemoaning across the endless web of night. Sings to the darkness, which never answers, whose tongue is nailed to the sky by the points of stars.

Some love is like this: vast and dissonant and forsaking.  

On a night without stars the people place candles in cedar boats and set them out to sea. Those who have lost someone they loved.

What is it? Beaming there. The whales come up to see. To swim between the lamps with their soft bodies soundlessly breaking the waterline. To love to thread and warp the light with their wakes, and to dive again, looking up at beauty’s dispersal.

They too who have lost someone.

About the Author

Andrew Robin is the author of the poetry collections Stray Birds (Kelson Books), Good Beast (Burnside Review Books), and Something has to happen next (University of Iowa Press). He is a recipient of the Iowa Poetry Prize and a Distinguished Teaching Award from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. He lives with his wife Sarah on Lopez Island in Washington State, where he works as a nurse and a medic.