Liz Robbins

To You, Who’s Tried So Hard

her whole life to be good, what other people want:
I made a painting once of a pine tree in a yard 
at Christmastime, blinking at the coming dusk. Someone had dressed the pine in blue lights,
and it reflected violet on the snow. I was dreaming 
of you, but I tried not to obsess on the beginning, 
having learned to keep open as long as possible 
before locking in. Our whole life, I’ve been
the blackest black paint that completely absorbs 
the light, converse of you. A constant pendulum 
going too far, then struggling to pull back.
In winter especially, light’s a cool fascination. 
Long ago, someone strung you up with lights, 
and now, in midlife, your aura’s unmistakable. 
I’ve always clung to representation, to stark truth-telling, but it’s an exhilarating night sky 
dotted with stars, too far for real warmth.
I’m learning to abstract the landscape, to wrap 
the box of grit in a bit of gold foil. How hard
I am to change. All my people have begun dying, 
and I’m charged with collecting, burning
the bones: is anyone old enough? Ask me for what 
you want. Until then, I’m painting you inside
the warm house, inside the thought of gingerbread 
to eat instead of make. Looking out the window
at tomorrow, the inviting piles of imaginative space.

Liz Robbins’ third collection, Freaked, won the 2014 Elixir Press Annual Poetry Award; her second collection, Play Button, won the 2010 Cider Press Review Book Award. In 2015 she won the Crab Orchard Review Special Issue Feature Award in Poetry and in 2016 was nominated for the Pushcart Prize by Fugue. Her poems have appeared in Beloit Poetry Journal, BOAAT, Denver Quarterly, DIAGRAM, Hayden’s Ferry Review, The Journal, Kenyon Review Online, and Rattle, as well as on Poetry Daily and The Writer’s Almanac with Garrison Keillor. She’s an associate professor of creative writing at Flagler College in St. Augustine, Florida.