Todd Robinson’s poems have appeared most recently in Sugar House Review, Thistle Magazine, Canopic Jar, Houseguest, Main Street Rag, A Dozen Nothing, and Chiron Review. His first full-length collection, Mass for Shut-Ins, is forthcoming from Backwaters Press. He holds a Ph.D. in English from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and teaches in the Writer’s Workshop at the University of Nebraska-Omaha.
Ice in my throat, ice on the road, sky rock-white and so far away perspective
skews in a cold house, indifferent sky that makes me call Pops to relive the old
rhetoric. When I was ten he stropped the prophecies that scored my bones
forever: for someone so smart you sure act dumb/space cadet/why don’t you
listen/bonzo/how can you respect yourself/fool. I disagreed, but later sat so
many nights, scotch eroding everything, stunted genius waking dawn after
dawn to infomercial natter and a ballpeen hammer. Prophets are hard to trust,
and from my woozy chair I can’t say I love him or myself, though A.A. chips
clang in a box. He wobbles through his duplex on a grand a month disability
because some thug plugged him with a .38 in 1980, bar floor not quite Kingdom
Come for the old man younger than I am now, though I was too bright with
resentment to care much. Now I hold up an empty glass to the sun behind its
veil of winter cloud-scrim and give thanks that he was spared to chastise and
to help me move my shit from house to house to house. Two and some years
past the last burn I feel the ice building back up. Snow muffles sound, raccoon
tracks scrawl the yard, a perfect bird shivers its song—the city swims up from
sleep to make more music. I am a nostalgic chump, want some tumbler of poison
to make my machine parts hum. I am not unique in this, but still feel so urgent.
I nod to the memory of smoke from my mouth, from the bullet-holed skull that
mocked so well. We’re still alive in our separate ways, both of us sober and bored.