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.