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Michael Robins

People You May Know
    for Dan Chelotti

I, too, dumbfounded by it, exquisite
beyond the glass where the bird drapes
fluttered & done, discarded thing

& its silence yet annunciating the proud
month, months gone. In gallant afterthought
I, fledgling, darted by train, forth in time

reading snowmelt & throwaway cups,
cars holding earshot of the churn as the
engine couples, reverses direction. I close

my books to better elicit the lined fence,
collect tranquil folk in lawn chairs
all but forgotten. Within this weather

it browns, irrefutable maples & bare scrub
deciding the day. With a suitcase
sidestepping along, through the shade

darkening my wits & this valley alike,
I’m stranger to Amherst, yet to block its sun
& circling planes. A dollar in my pocket,

hand amnesic & pretending anything
but abandoned, likely tattered, surely haunted,
older than its brother. When I hitch,

I wrestle flowers to gift my name a summer
thawed green. When time hurries
next to marry landscape, the humidity

that occupies nook & cranny dilates
far as decent eyes can see. The town is actual,
skies purring more blue than postcards

or a sailor's suit. The surrounding wood
comes back prized, bountiful, three coughs
later & turned inside, outside rather

if I'm healthy & occasion twists an arm,
no funny stuff alongside the Unitarian church,
over cracks with electric hum. Places

everyone, smooth brows & just below them
constellations licked, particulars
lost to tiny, visible fires. I think it's July,

high-sounding. Soon it’s September where
(long past the pharmacist, the jeweler,
chop-chop cheerio the fraternity, split couches

flaccid with Greek) I’m embracing friends
thataway, brooms to lean in our ears,
bumping matches off dandelions

useful yet by their storied, gray heads
& foxes we misread as loping dogs, ferrying
campus squirrels yonder for the pond

or athletic fields we’ll never careen, not even
when pink mystery at sundown abounds.
Powdery shafts of incandescence,

the same gangly pack no no we chew
too many words, jumping through the window
in lieu of a door. We stutter half circles

around the poet’s fervent, unclouded hand,
we trip over his typewriter to catch
its mind, globes of his own coinage & we

do not confess quickly, sure as hell
some dream for which no one hankers,
how its browns only stand bright

among the peripheral leaves, autumn
unnoticeable as the neighbors until behind us,
complete, good riddance. I’d like to say

we cannot buy the rumor of a steeple
sunk beneath the Quabbin. I’m susceptible
like others, over & misheard kissing

(small attempts), kisses between pages
& nervy canoodles unbeknownst,
garbled & dizzy, the forever staircase

holding a wink our trysts with the moon,
our waltzing. There must be rousing, inevitable
surges & late birdcalls as gravediggers

belt down their beers. I’d like to say
better now than never to the unclouded hand
you are a father & incomparable. You’d

eat an elephant for lunch, one parched foot
thirsting another. You pantomime
soap & razor across your chin’s horizon

where hawks multiply, carriages roll
babies through bald hills, seventeen lanes
bound in jet skis, the lake village,

a tree, pneumatic tree parading readily
& toward the parlor mirror that flickers a wave
or wellspring or cascade. Afternoons

contract & lengthen in yellow swimwear
on the shore, kiddos invariably lacing
sneakers for a contest, thwacking

balls atop the woodpile, the challenge
“always to find the ultimate in the ordinary
horseshit.” After the weekend & its vulgarities,

you paint the mind a lily. White’s the rage,
free as air & the charcuterie board
courtesy of our chef, don’t mention it

nor the little finger like a language raised
curbside, warning shot across Main
& North Pleasant streets, beyond the gates

behind the filling station where stones
replace sky, where Emily sleeps
after a honeyed chase. You & yours

to decorate her grave stash a clip-on toy,
ten-cent crown, the parachute of a retired stiff
nestled unscathed, wry on the branch

up up & lustrous at the end of one season,
blocks of ice breezing into town
before we even recognize their clothes,

school-books numb in their bellies,
chalky halos, aboard-about-above in a cursive
neglected. With dozing lectures, sure,

but no murder. Erase too the slow bus
of backyard arborists, curls silver
& moral. Plus the police on their bicycles,

however many tickets roosting, unseen
till it’s mums for the Volvo wagons
buried in the snow. The unabridged troupe

at their X’s, paramour of the open library
shushing her mocha & that son of the “famous”
so & so peddling vinyl, no poet himself

nor desirous to wait before the postmistress
who bids our envelopes a fine farewell,
passage snug & never suggesting

corpses, unspeakables in the tobacco barn
rejected for abusing the preposition. A gauntlet
thrown down, scattered fights against

literalists lacking fortitude & who thank you
for the opportunity, wish you the best
placing it somewhere else. Luckily,

despite the stars, a river, the mouthfuls
flowing variable, I fidget imagination
& it renders, approachably greens so forget

the brouhaha, its bouquet & the tongue
under April rain. Been there, tasted
days sprouting, “the ones that can be saved”

& upon their knees, no shoes no shirt no
kidding, bang bang the brain extinct, heavenly
brain. Cloverleaves are yawning,

insolence & its parsimonious smoke arrives
& disappears like a ghost. The evidence
(titmice times three) hints this tally might’ve

happened in a hammock. I’m the veteran now,
running his nose across the sleeve, my
high-fevered binoculars leveled

for inspection of a hot slice at Antonio’s,
new blood rising over the shoulder, tuft of hair
zigzagging the lower lip. Regrets, a few

but then I’d wed again in a heartbeat
this stranger, parade my mason jar of pennies
flattened on the track. The train whistles,

it blinks & blows out a harmless nightmare
where the bear five-fingers the hummingbirds
their feeder. By my damnedest I don’t

knock stone at the unacquainted future,
deadhead a daffodil. I’m susceptible
like others & admit the raft floating down

the Connecticut, its substance relished
& swirling. To the unclouded hand
life’s ducky, thank you for asking,

your common armchair sits nothing short
of a god, I swear. For a manyeth time
I load my canteen, compulsory tear-jerking

(all indelicacy), flags outside command
half-danced & sailed. In their shadow,
by their indifferent symbols, I dub my escape

sub rosa & starting bent with the morning mail
toward a lamp that echoes its treetop tune
easy on the eyes, cool enough to sip,

that which nips the interior some good
nine hundred western miles later. Trying
not to balloon as I could the sultry

solicitations, doorways & enigmatic
smiles, I paw this ashy earth. Overhead,
chickadees in orbit, what remains

genuine. In ready, permissive hindsight,
I flipped my magnet past the bison pastures,
goats tame & from the town I loved,

the unclouded hand yet loved. Absolute &
trembling, I stared hard across a prairie
called Toledo, Ohio, & I hauled like a pioneer.


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.