Archive for the ‘Robert Philbin’ Category

Some days you just don’t feel like it.
It’s a vacuous moment, and you’re exhausted,

expecting nothing. Like any scene in a Sofia Coppola
film. It’s like the man said. If we didn’t love

fashion, we’d all be naked. I think it’s good
to be naked. Lacking inspiration, focus, we accept

the decadent without obsession for nostalgia
or language. Creativity is mysterious, the man says.

How to translate what he sees, into what he makes.
Some days, you just don’t feel like it.

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Two Poems by Robert Philbin


My neighbor drinks too much.
He shoots squirrels in his back
yard and he misses a lot,
tearing up chunks of pebbles
and fresh mown lawn. Then he

shouts across the yard at me:
Biggest goddamn rat I’ve ever seen!

Al drove truck from Tuy Hoa
to Nha Trang, highway one, eleven
months out and back, the shooting gallery.

Then he came home hard, already an old
man, so he could beg for work in his fat
steel town.
Katie’s a combat nurse,
she works the emergency room, weekends,
at Holy Spirit. Al takes it easy, feet up,

front of the flatscreen with his football
in HD, the dog and his cold Yuengling.

Dead bottles line up like body bags
in the sink, rats scurry under the deck
out back. Al couldn’t sleep a wink those days,

sweating amphetamines and beer at sunrise
on the South China Sea, slipping into the long
haul, gear by gear, through the putrid air.
All those rats everywhere, the sawed-off pump
up on the front seat, Old Jim Beam, proud

as a paratrooper on the dash board, and a not
a goddamn thing a good man could do about any of it.




In the eyes of the goat we discover
an apartment overlooking the sea
not far from Barcelona. Like drawing

water from an ancient well not far
from here, or to walk through the dream
of a dying woman who reinvents herself

in your memories. The camera used to be
my friend, but now I look like my father
at a bad time in his life. Photographers

don’t understand these things; they focus
on light and shadow, texture and ambience,
they prefer a good mood to a complex

situation, like 21 grams, the weight they
say the body looses after death.
In other words, the weight of the human

soul. The human brain weighs 1.5 kilograms,
but I prefer to write while listening
to the music of Arvo Pärt.

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Two Poems by Robert Philbin

old jazz

In a book store not far
from the river you write
a letter to a publisher
explaining why your

poems are all about you
and not about anything
else. The rafters reveal
a history, the sky light

reveals another history,
an overcast fall day.
The radio blares old jazz
older even than the skylight.

A Star of David in stained glass
across the street. Sometimes
a poem is all about everything,
and nothing, at the same time.


Imagine some perfect state where the mind
invents its own artifacts and time resists
every temptation to bend the willow branch
above the river. We have become what we

feared most — slow, lethargic champions
of the river bend below Natchez in late
summer. The water rising takes it all away.
They sing on the radio, my car speeds beneath

a relentless Mississippi sun that surrenders
nothing we haven’t read about before.
Mourning becomes another highway off
the river bank, in the shade of memory.

And deeper, you must go deeper into
the core of meaning itself, taking words
away from every opening in the mind,
like a bird, capturing the up current, climbs
altitudes never flown above water before.

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Two Poems by Robert Philbin


I don’t want to talk about bars.
Don’t want to remember them,
the smell of piss and dirty panties.
I don’t want to think about my father

in those days when bars were in my
life because I couldn’t get out of his.
And then I caught on to everybody’s game
and to this day, there are certain kinds

of bars, the kind Todd Moore writes about,
the kind that felt like home to Bukowski,
that I never go into. I don’t care about
any of those guys, those vicious old fucks
and their love for children.


random violence
at the kitchen table


Charles Bukowski reminds
me of my father, only
my father ended up
a better man somehow.

He pulled himself out
of that miserable neon
shit world of bars.

I caddied at age 11
so I could get one of
those cool shirts that
came all the way from

San Juan, and listened
to him play his new gibson
les paul into a long
Seagrams summer night.

Took me years to understand
why my kid brother hid in
the closet everytime the old
man came home from work.

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Historiography by Robert Philbin

We are already history.
The past is ancient, the future
arriving daily with another email.
The choices have ended, options

corroded down to zero:
the point from which
something else emerges,
something white like bone,

like a new species of wild
grass blown across the serengeti.
Something like hot air migrating
vegetation up a mountainside

toward the permafrost peaks,
where the dead lingered, preserved,
bog-like, on their way toward another
future, two thousand years ago.

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here we are again shot
through with inexplicable remorse,
a casting session in brooklyn,
the actress auditioning
has memorized the entire play.

the director and her lover
are so impressed, the producer says
she is open to sex if i bring
a nice wine later; and later, in
the darkness, the women in the audience

weep for something i didn’t intend:
“it has it’s own affect quite apart
from what you think you wrote robert,”
she says. “you know woody allen
is famous for his really cold days

in january when the snow forces
all the women to wear scarves
and hats, a glimpse of eye here, a brow
there;” that’s a fine phrase to panic
to, thinking i have no control over it

now the actors own it. i own the sidewalk
maybe, ambling past a moroccan cafe near
the park, looking for a bottle of red,
i suppose my personality is quite
i don’t know, i observe people and

then evaporate into the wallpaper
even after discovering a red substance
in the shower this morning, but
that’s another poem, the one
where marina collects cell phones

in a basket, then films me with black
tape over my eyes and mouth,
waste-deep in freezing creek water,
until i finally come to understand torture.

(Erythropoiesis the process by which red blood cells (erythrocytes) are produced. In adults, this usually occurs within the bone marrow.)

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