A Poem by Todd Robinson

Todd Robinson

Todd Robinson

Todd Robinson’s poems have appeared most recently in Sugar House ReviewThistle MagazineCanopic JarHouseguestMain Street RagA 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. 

Hard-Headed Mantra 

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.