May 11, 2018

Three Poems by Timothy Robbins:"Hand, Eyes, Mouth", "The Hallway", "For Amelia Who Took Over Our Lease"

Timothy Robbins teaches ESL. He has a B.A. in French and an M.A. in Applied Linguistics. He has been a regular contributor to Hanging Loose since 1978. His poems have appeared in Three New Poets, Slant, Main Street Rag, Adelaide Literary Magazine, Off The Coast and others. His collection Denny’s Arbor Vitae was published in 2017. He lives with his husband of twenty years in Kenosha, Wisconsin, birthplace of Orson Welles.

Hand, Eyes, Mouth

The hands that
these drawings
are, strictly speaking,
not mine.

I plucked them
like gloves from
the sidewalk
after a thaw

figuring no one would
claim them and so far
no one has.

They fit - well,
maybe they're just a bit
too large,

stretched by their
careless possibly
frost-bitten owner.

I keep looking at
the faces they

the eyes are
more piercing

the mouths less rigid
so they might look out
at the picture I'm in,

tell me it's not as bad
as I think and how

to make it better.

The Hallway

Down the street from the hallway,
scotch-taped to the door-glass of a
makeshift hairdresser’s, a handwritten
sign instructed: press button and
wait for buzzard

Shelley didn’t believe it. I took
scissors and taffeta from her hands,
hauled her to her feet, pulled
her down the stairs and out,

past the crackhouse and a sad
park comforting its abused gazebo,

past the re-gentrified gingerbread
(the 30-something junior executive
was slapping his car’s shiny hood, trunk,
flanks with a towel that plopped
like a suicidal octopus
on a carbon steel beach).

Out of breath, we pressed the button.
A minute’s wait and there slouched
the buzzard, annoyed we’d shortened
his nap, rude when we admitted
we didn’t want our hair cut.

Tyrone brought me midnight snacks, obligingly
lowering already low jeans. Doris befriended all
who blessed with cigarettes. The English grad
student fetched the paper in his Bengali wife’s
sari. Once at my place, with a telemarketer
on the line, Francie yelled she was being strangled.
Ten minutes later a cop filled my doorway, took
one look and “beg-your-pardoned”
petite, polite, very white me.

For Amelia Who Took
Over Our Lease

Stand with Clementine who means something to you
(I’ll never know what) above Fuller Street. Breathe
the panoptic view of the Amtrak from Detroit to Chicago —
thundering freight to Kalamazoo — tracks like hand-
rails for the tiny who trace the banks of the Huron,

that reclining Cleopatra bejeweled by sun and
security lights, under the guard of starving trees and
gluttonous bushes. Strain your eyes for the floral shop
masquerading as a church, the strip mall small as
Monopoly. Admire the plastic Korean market and

Hindu grocery. I bequeath you the finest landlord.
Treat him gently. He’s more fragile than he appears
when he carves the air with gestures that resemble
Tai Chi and laughs like he’s choking on his own dry
jokes. Treat him with respect when he pulls his face

with his hand, hunches his shoulders and sighs on the
lease. Be lenient with him. He won’t mind if you take
an extra week to drop your check in the lopsided box.
(I liked to think of it as dropping our kids at school.) Be
young and bright. While you regale your friends with the

view he’s in that stuffy basement office with its smell of
lint from laundry vents and a refrigerator door hanging
open as though the fridge has been smothered. Listen
with interest even if feigned to reports of California
grandkids who harbor no love for Taipei.

~Timothy Robbins

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