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Robin Robertson, 19 February 2004

... meet me where the sun goes down meet me in the cave, under the battleground meet me on the broken branch meet me in the shade, below the avalanche meet me under the witch’s spell meet me tonight, in the wishing well meet me on the famine lawn meet me in the eye of the firestorm meet me in your best shoes and your favourite dress meet me on your o ...

Hanging Fire

Robin Robertson, 20 August 1998

... The impatience for summer is desire: ritual, imbedded hard as a hinge in the earth’s mesh. From the papery bulb, the spurred, flesh-green horn pushes, straining for air; flexes its distended, perfect, cleft muscle out and up through the crust. Then the deeper sleep of August, ninety degrees of hanging fire: the yellow lawns, the blighted flowerless trees, the malformed leaves sticky with sarcoma; the only sound the hot, rhythmic tick of tarmac ...

Two Poems

Robin Robertson, 8 July 2004

... Wormwood A flight of loose stairs off the street into a high succession of empty rooms, prolapsed chairs and a memory of women perfumed with hand-oil and artemisia absinthium: wormwood to me, and to the sappy Russian sailors, chernobyl. The scooped-back ballroom gown shows the tell-tale bra-strap: red, tired, losing its elasticity. ‘Leave it,’ my maths master used to say at a dropped pencil, ‘it can’t fall any further ...

Circus on Calton Hill

Robin Robertson, 18 April 1996

... Edinburgh burns below us, this blazing day where flame’s invisible, a dark wave lapping at the petrol’s grain, as the fire-eaters assuage their thirst. The fanned embers of the city rustle like the wrappers of sweets; heat tinkering in the coal. Sitting under the colonnade, we are so close we almost touch. Tumblers flip and flex, desultory on the dry grass; gulls channer in the stunned heat, shedding air above us and over the baking Craigleith stone, to bank away to the airish Firth and Inchkeith Island, the Ferry and the May ...


Robin Robertson, 6 October 1994

... In the greatness of the flame he gave up the ghost Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, XI The poplars are emptied at dusk like blown matches. A gust frees and scatters the leaves in their last blaze: the bronze husks catch and cartwheel round and down the street to the park in the smoke of a dark autumn, from the thin, extinguished trees. In the small lake, what had once been water now was seamed with smoke, marbled and macular, dim and deep as wax, with each stick and twig like a spilled wick in the dulling hollow of the sconce: metamorphosis in the cancelled pond ...

By Clachan Bridge

Robin Robertson, 29 November 2007

... For Alasdair Roberts I remember the girl with the hare-lip down by Clachan Bridge, cutting up fish to see how they worked; by morning’s end her nails were black red, her hands all sequined silver. She simplified rabbits to a rickle of bones; dipped into a dormouse for the pip of its heart. She’d open everything, that girl. They say they found wax dolls in her wall, poppets full of human hair, but I’d say they’re wrong ...

Two Poems

Robin Robertson, 21 October 2004

... On Pharos Four hollows and four seal-skins on the beach, by a cave, their stink undercut by the faint scent of ambrosia; some tracks, of wild boar and panther; the scales of a serpent; the hair, perhaps, of a bearded lion; torn leaves from a tree when there were no trees anywhere near; and, round a puddle of fresh water, scorch-marks in the sand and the signs of a struggle ...

Two Poems

Robin Robertson, 17 November 2011

... The Shelter I should never have stayed in this cold shieling once the storm passed and the rain had finally eased. I could make out shapes in here, the occasional sound: a muffled crying which I took for wind in the trees; a wasp, stuttering there at the windowsill. I listened. What looked like a small red coat was dripping from its wire hanger. There was a shift and rustle coming from the bucket in the corner by the door; I found, inside, a crumpled fist of balled-up paper, slowly uncrinkling ...

Three Poems

Robin Robertson, 6 September 2001

... False Spring A lift in the weather: a clemency I cling to like the legend of myself: self-exiled, world-wounded, god of evenings like this, eighty degrees and half a world away. * All night, the industry of erasure, effacement, our one mouth working itself dry. * But even a god can’t stop the light that finds us, annealed, fruitless, two strangers broken on the field of day ...

Three Poems

Robin Robertson, 16 November 1995

... Shot You sleep as I stumble room to room, unhelmed, heavy-greaved; coming to you through gorse-light and the fallen trees: heraldic, blessed with wounds. Red-handed at the key I was stock-still, gazing back at deer-slots in the snow: flushed, quick from the kill, carrying my shot, my sadness like a stone. In the quarry-hole of your bed you’re sleeping still ...

Strindberg in Berlin

Robin Robertson, 19 July 2007

... All the wrong turnings that have brought me here – debts, divorce, a court trial, and now a forced exile in this city and this drinking cell, Zum Schwarzen Ferkel, The Black Porker: neither home nor hiding-place, just another indignity, just a different make of hell. Outside, a world of people queuing to stand in my light, and that sound far in the distance, of my life labouring to catch up ...

Four Poems

Robin Robertson, 28 January 2010

... Law of the Island They lashed him to old timbers that would barely float, with weights at the feet so only his face was out of the water. Over his mouth and eyes they tied two live mackerel with twine, and pushed him out from the rocks. They stood, then, smoking cigarettes and watching the sky, waiting for a gannet to read that flex of silver from a hundred feet up, close its wings and plummet-dive ...

Four Poems

Robin Robertson, 6 May 2004

... La Stanza delle Mosche The room sizzles in the morning sun. A tinnitus of flies throbs at the bright windows, butting and dunting the glass; one dings off the light, to the floor, vibrating blackly – pittering against the wall before taxi and take-off: another low moaning flight, another fruitless stab at the world outside. They drop on my desk, my hands, and spin their long deaths on their backs on the white tiles, like tiny humming tops that stop and start: badly-wired armatures, or (literally) flywheels, chasing their tails, first one way then the other – fizzling dervishes, whining to be stubbed out ...

Out in the Open

Robin Robertson, 25 May 2006

... after Tranströmer 1. Late autumn labyrinth. A discarded bottle lies at the entrance to the wood. Walk in. The forest in this season is a silent palace of abandoned rooms. Only a few, precise sounds: as if someone were lifting twigs with tweezers; as if, inside each tree-trunk, a hinge was creaking quietly. Frost has breathed on the mushrooms and they’ve shrivelled up; they are like the personal effects of the disappeared ...

Signs on a White Field

Robin Robertson, 18 October 2007

... The sun’s hinge on the burnt horizon has woken the sealed lake, leaving a sleeve of sound. No wind, just curved plates of air re-shaping under the trap-ice, straining to give; the groans and rumbles like someone shifting heavy tables – or something gigantic turning to get comfortable. I snick a stone over the long sprung deck to get the dobro’s glassy note, the crying slide of a bottleneck, its tremulous ululation to the other shore ...

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