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  Peter Robinson
Peter Robinson has published more than thirty books of poetry, translations, aphorisms, interviews, and literary criticism. His recent titles include Selected Poetry and Prose of Vittorio Sereni (University of Chicago Press, 2006) and The Greener Meadow: Selected Poems of Luciano Erba (Princeton University Press, 2007) for which he was awarded the John Florio Prize. His most recent collection is The Look of Goodbye: Poems 2001-2006 (Shearsman Books, 2008). Spirits of the Stair: Selected Aphorisms is forthcoming from Shearsman in 2009.



Pension Scheme

‘Mrs. Cheveley: “Even you are not rich enough,
Sir Robert, to buy back your past. No man is.”’
    Oscar Wilde, An Ideal Husband

i.m. Siobhán Kilfeather

Let the dead borrow our eyes
beside a canal bank walk as swans
with cygnet balls of fluff beside them
float on their reflections —

for when familiar faces come
and take us unawares,
bringing bitter news
of one who won’t find out what happens
in her family soap-operas,
you see, a gap appears
in which two almost strangers
precariously perched on high stools of a pub
sip swift halves ruminating on
having kids of their own
before baby-sitting in a Dublin suburb …

but now familiar faces come
and take us unawares,
I’m summing up our losses
with the spiders’ handiwork, quotations, house repairs;
you see, because they’re so expensive,
we can never buy back the years.

Clear as Daylight

The dancers, faces oblivious & grave, —
testing testing
the dancers face oblivion and the grave.’
    Geoffrey Hill, ‘After Reading Children of Albion (1969)’

Reading in an early dawn —
you’re distracted glancing over
edges of slim volume pages
and words, too fathomable words
cross patios, backyards,
outliving children of Albion
who face death now, as best they can,
while the first birds sing.

To identify with where we live
I read us into every thing,
like the cut of some salt-crusted brickwork …
though, try as I might,
dripping tap and leaky cistern
gall me to the quick,
like one swan biting at another’s neck —
as if we’d never learn.

But even the things I’m reading
strayed among wild rhubarb
are moving over surfaces
of cloud types, sun- and storm-light,
that heat has flaked to pieces
and they’re sublimed, resentment-free,
like purgatories in others’ verses,
to skies filled with activity.

Otterspool Prom

‘O cursed spite’
    William Shakespeare

There’s a dazzle of sunlight on the low-tide river
and our far shore
has a silver-grey blur, bright as never, never,
ever before.

You see it’s enough to bring tears to the eyes
by silhouetting trees,
winter boughs spidery on mist-like white skies
twitched in a breeze.

But then down the promenade its flyers release
their dragon-tailed kite;
frost on the pitches is shrinking by degrees;

a student’s words return, her going ‘England’s shite!’
and I’m like ‘Please
yourself’ in sunshine born as if to set it right.

© Peter Robinson 2009