Trilobite is an arthropodologist's delight:
many bizarre creatures; no two alike.

five Robert poems and “Urgent, star”

S. Yarberry


Robert looks upon “Melancholia I” by Albrecht Dürer hung on the wall by William Blake in his workshop.

The dog is skin and bones—
and time has almost run out.
What is that? A boy asks
a marvelous stone wall.
A hunk of granite, not yet
turned into underserved
beauty? The hammer lies
dormant. A globe, unpainted.
There’s nowhere to go. Hell-
hounds crawl out from
behind the brightest star.
Justice? No. No lifelong
true love. No children out
on the mezzanine. No horses
under the willow trees. Only
this. A large sullen angel
who once could fly off
into the depth of don’t-
remember-me—wingless now,
stuck in this world
where things can’t be made in
to be any different.

Robert Grows in Missouri

Outside Potosi, past the green gate, I wake up

one morning with Robert completely absent

from my mind. Nothing works out here unless I get up

and work it—the old iron stove, the well,

a message, hand delivered. I mistake a snake

for a worm—The invisible worm, my mind fires off,

That flies in the night In the howling storm

whose dark secret love does thy life destroy.

It’s a snake though—no bigger than thumb to the tip of my finger.

I walk next to the big old tree struck by lightning

and the grey snake is long gone. I fail to identify

the name of the purple wildflowers that bust

up from the warm spring dirt. I pick up rocks—

quartz, garnet, everything shimmering in the sun

like fish scales under my childhood harbor. A friend

peels an orange while she looks at the field;

she’s saying something, I can only half listen since the birds

are in heat all around us, the cedars thumping with calls,

Come November


the field, burning

I watch the prairie where everything sprouts. In November,

she says, the grass comes up to your waist

you wade in, you barely fit. November,

we put a flame to it

it’s gone, faster than a thought

I wish I could be there, I say, watching

it— hot and dazzling against

the midwest snow. The quick burn giving way to the slow

growth—each stalk of prairie grass getting up

out of the ground like a Robert poking up and singing

in the wind what Robert has been singing all these years,

a song so deep inside the chest it sounds like a storm,

The world hurts

The world hurts I can’t control what I want and now

I burn the field, I burn it, hoping

each time something better comes back.

Patience, Hard Thing (Robert’s Wet Dream)

You press yourself into me. A loss of embodied knowledge

as the brilliant thinker becomes thoughtless in sex. Oblique

obedience. Whose obeying whom? Not yet, not yet. You stroke

thought from bliss. Body slant with body. In the evening we drink

wine by the cool window—narrow light, light slipshods through

the blinds. We work ourselves up. Who’s who in this nonlight? Mouth

tangles what I say. Little sycophant. A happy fresco makes the heart

beat fast. Call me your good boy. If you pin me to the wall, I’ll spill

my fretted prophecy. Sleep skin

to skin. Tell me the hardest thing.

The Ballad of Robert Blake


No one can hear anything

in a seashell

except me. I calibrate

to the dangers found

in a sheepfold.

A sheepfold lost now

in time. Why not?

—speak of a bridge of

bats, a bridge of

historical foreboding—

Why not? This is the timeless present, after all. In

fact the sound is not

blood nor air on the water

that pushed it out to shore. Not

the sound at all —


To die before your time.

To refrain from the “immediately recognizable.”

To refrain from bad habits and knots

of linguistic fortitude.

To fall in love with this language.

It’s unimaginable, the sense of death

extended only by memory

(a cold shot of terrible

whiskey is being poured

into that small clear glass

and this is what allows

the impossible ballad

to be written and failed

until history finds

its landscaped buried

and burdened, and burdened,

in the slow hand

of the drunk and the poor

who kept time to themselves

even as you, yeah you, tried

to steal it.)


The incognito of “the human experience.”

A non-human ball of light,

a ball of sickly green light,

a ball of blue light sucked

right out of deep time,

deep space, whatever, this

is my blue light, my sickly

green light, all movement

as potential, now, not

movement as forgotten

tendencies. I am a big idea

with big boots to fill. Here’s

my belt buckle all aglimmer;

Here, everything inside me

has failed, has made me

cold, distant, even; no,

no, I like being a ball

of light — why can’t

you just

leave me



Let me argue in private —

for Heaven’s sake —

The crow

The jackdaw

An easy mistake

from so far away

I’ve never thought about

seeing you again.

An easy mistake.

To have existed

so much

with you. I’m

disappearing, I’m

going back, the shell

is calling you to shore,

to say, this is where

voices get kept: if you

can’t hear me

you’ve stopped listening.


Collapse (tell yourself).

Your radiant looks

have me


Temporal conundrum.

Temporal friction.

Evade a subject position

to be remembered as


I mean omniscient. The story

must be told, totally.

The seagull made into

a puppet of his likenesses. Speaks,

finally, of only a chess

set collecting dust; bottles tucked

neatly into glass

cabinets. I won’t

get to be.

Fateless, and in conversation,

I keep finding myself,

in the middle of

a conversation, I’ve

never wanted to have.

The Last Performance

I let the rain go up

into my boots for you.

You pulled

my hand


deep. When you said


I’d go harder. I

had always dreamed

of wanting like that—

A horse whips around a corner.

A song plays off

into the distance. You get me

on film doing

what you like. Don’t show

anybody, I whisper. You:

always a no show

at the very last minute—

of yourself. Curtains!,

heavy and red, rush outward.

I do

your bidding.

I wave you off

the balustrade amidst

our showstopping

performance! Domestic.

Broken. Off the side,

I throw down what’s left unsaid.

A formality? Ubetcha.

What if lovers let sleeping

dogs lie? Dear Beatrice!

Dear Helen! Mere gasps in the night—

I’d dance circles around

any ol bastards if only

to catch your little side eye.

I was peripheral.

Off in the wings.

Timing is everything

after all. I’m lapping

up the coast of you.

It was what you wanted.

The silence of the tongue.

The yearning. The want.

Never the thing itself.

Urgent, stars

Star 1

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