John Timothy Robinson
My Father’s Lymphoma
For I had felt all hope abandoned,
no knowledge of medicine, no degree.
His disease seemed invisible to a geolog of landscape,
an eroded arc of his monument, my cave.
Powerless and stupid, angelic dispositions, severed wings,
no crueler force on earth like this, so brutal.
I knew not my mother’s anguish, so brutal
to live and love, then watch as if abandoned,
he, receding beyond any reachable point between those fabled wings.
As if his life retreated past some stark degree,
unformed, invisible in a clueless wisdom of that cave,
my ghost and his ghost one, muted in silent landscape.
I hope that I can be a father like his athletic landscape,
of ball fields, solidarity and love, to escape brutality
in fires of old, neolithic caves.
Though as I see these years of gradual abandoning,
give me his hope to salvage in degrees
all things of honor. A ladder stands to mend a fractured wing.
His humor in old photographs gave him different wings.
Posed in the yard with a hunter’s kill, at play on landscape,
with family, military dress, a high school degree.
Of all the protests at Vietnam, he was silent, with brutal,
cellular changes coursing in his blood, though never abandoned
friends. He remembered them and smiled. This strength, his cave.
Once, when I was critical of government, he would not cave
in to speak against a greater good. His smoker’s wings
he’d earned since he was twelve and never abandoned
this habit, almost unconscious, like his pastoral love of landscape.
The facts of our neglect are often brutal
when failing to adjust for such impossible degrees.
Man of wire, man of steel, no knowledge or degree
has found the cure or cause of our lament. This cave
is lit with runes which liken us to ancient men, brutal
in their cause and wake. May your wings
explode with life, hover, unfurl here above this landscape
where we continue in the sorrows of your abandonment.
I will not drag you abandoned through life, from warm, October degrees.
Daffodils and Naked Ladies in landscape above this hollow pit, this cave.
With sober wings and conscious thought, we carry on, less brutal.
A small, black, short-haired dog;
brown splotches above the eyes,
some white on her chest and belly.
Her mother was a Mountain Feist,
the father, a registered Beagle.
Always ate like a bird.
I think I only took one photograph
the whole time she was here.
In the picture,
she still seemed to look at me
as if posing oddly,
complaining at the same time.
She came to me from grandma,
when Alzheimer’s became too severe.
I used to drive a half mile in one direction
to mow grass
and she would follow me every time
no matter what I said.
I chained her in the barn once
and the next time she followed me anyway.
I would often go miles into the woods
and she would follow.
The loyalty of dogs is pure and true.
In a good mood,
she would crouch with her hinds in the air,
front legs extended
as if ready to pounce.
I would say, “I’m gonna get you.”
Then she would run that happy
kind of crazy running that dogs do
when they’re in a good mood.
She would then stop,
frozen in the same stance,
wait for me to chase.
I found her once in the lower yard
curled into a little ball.
The neighbor had hit her.
She was missing her right eye.
So I took her back, a half mile up the road.
Eventually, her socket healed
and she seemed to live a normal life.
One day, I noticed when I tried to pick her up
she would wince and slightly yelp
when I touched her sides.
A couple years later,
there were days where she wouldn’t move as much.
I found small pools of watery vomit
on the porch.
I knew something was wrong.
She didn’t move; the heavy breathing.
I tried to soothe her
but she didn’t respond
even to my voice.
The dogs of our lives are scattered here.
We live in the country
So you don’t take your dog to a cemetery.
Sonny, my border collie,
is over where the corn crib stood.
In the hay-field; Benji, Trixie, Tug,
Peaches, Manley and a cat whose name I’ve forgotten.
Miles is buried in the yard.
Hazard, somewhere next to the Barnwood Nursery,
where the building was
before I tore it down.
In the corner of another field,
Next to the creek, under a huge sycamore,
I imagine they sit
like guardians of an afterlife of animals;
Red Bone, King, Patches, Colby and Hap.
As Breece Pancake said,
they run and play in the Happy Hunting-ground,
they run and play,
for the deer are shot there,
they jump up and run after they fall,
as no one ever truly kills there,
and nothing ever dies.
The Dance Practice
The way she moved across this wooden floor
was like a dancer leaping high in bounds
with grace, a soaring gesture up and more
than once was caught in fleeting eyes, her gown.
Of all the days I watched her dance, not once
was someone ever there to smile or stare,
as I had often stopped or stooped so much
in keep with my lone task of clean and care.
Though I would not intrude upon her time,
and only often watched in just a musing way.
I never saw her in these halls, the shine
and gold in glare of footlights gleamed, held her sway.
So many faces fill the walks, unknown.
That twirling figure, I will not forget, has grown.
John Timothy Robinson is a mainstream poet of the expressive image and inwardness from the Kanawha Valley in Mason County, West Virginia. His poetics were developed in the tradition of James Wright, Rita Dove, Donald Hall, Marvin Bell, Maxine Kumin, WS Merwin, Tess Gallagher and Robert Bly among many others. John’s works have appeared in ninety journals throughout the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and India. He is also a published printmaker with sixty-four art images and photographs appearing in nineteen journals, electronic and print in the United States, Italy and Ireland.
Recent Work: Trajectory, Aries: a Creative Journal of Literary Expression, Green Briar Review, Pulsar Poetry Magazine, Toe Good, Pennsylvania English, Black Lawrence Press, Indefinite Space and Red River Review.