ed roberson






The softened sound of lighter traffic

beaches on attention

in the now and then     just barely

a wave pattern,


water seems nowhere

for miles around except this

sound to the city

afternoon     summer     weekend,

the napping breaths music     this surf.


Sea glass     and the elegant simplifications

of shell topography reduced through waves,

the city picks off this beach as

frosted panels, spiral stairs,


the streamline of surfaces;

the wrecked are fitted back,

the breakers quieted, the washed bone

cycle of deaths is the sound

of a cold and sweet seasonal fruit bitten.


The sands of the mind, Natasha says,

are unthreaded

by the reach and withdraw

rhythm of the ocean there is


to be learned;     this weft through time

drops me here in this pattern

to live the city as lone

survivor of     this wreck

to the softened sounds of lighter traffic.



The sand mind ‘s run out     the emptied

glass of the hour not refilled     unturned,

a thirst     but not to live


a thirst but not to live up to

rings the brim to a silence at such resignations

abandoning     all that was lived to liquidation

for another life,

a triage

of the self rather than suicide, than getting run over


like that Pittsburgh boy from “Paul’s Case” run over

on the tracks of the Main Line through New Jersey

where he threw himself in Willa Cather’s story —

every geography has its genius


for death: bridges, high speed freeways, scenic leaps

in front of trains are commuter Jersey’s;

Maine, you drink yourself to death.

Those who walk from the beach

into the surf sound confused


with lightened traffic

in their minds’ last grains of sand from the hour

glass emptying—

what of them?


They live between not to live and not to live

up to     here     this afternoon


They put the jump ahead of themselves

behind them;

the ledge already gone over somewhere up

ahead off their hands for the moment



Then where are they     not even gone wrong

—from the beginning. or wrong for never having

a right way to go. nor even     a way.



of all the stars in these skies — nowhere.

vnot even the faintest answer, but said.

 —to be nowhere.

In the sound

of its least of traffic from a balcony


on the fifteenth floor,

as they realize the soles of their feet are wet,

the locus genii washes in

over their ankles


and they turn to step through the door any number

of doors into an empty apartment,

hear echo wave to wave all their steps for

—we can’t know    how long

ankle deep.


and ankle deep

as a place. a stand on this ocean.

What washes slowly out

from under you     a slower sinking.







He looks like he lifts

long strands of dripping algae

with a stick

when the bird who walks

on lily pads lifts his feet the fan of twigs

the structure for the rafts he makes of leaves

to walk on water

at the aviary.

I carry laundry

from the kettle at the camp

that way

or spaghetti from the pot

to the plate equivalent of lily pads floating

on the picnic table mats if there aren’t any

of those kinds of birds

on the river

I can fill in for that

geometry. And when my brother finally talked

after coming back

from the fighting, he had seen

a head on a stick from both armies; it was a while

before we could do things we used to together

like even grill steaks.

I would have waited longer

on his explanation for that

But now we talk go to the aviary, fishing, the zoo.

Sit drawing in the dirt with sticks

And talk.


The area around the aviary

in the park insists on meeting you

as the inside of the building with its sound

walking up to you to escort you through

the door gently nothing but bodiless calls

of birds beside you in that way you can’t see.


You can’t see them inside immediately,

you see their green rooms of elegant foliage,

staged water, and light in movement before you see

them moving the leaves leaving one for another;

the room waves as if their wings brought up the wind

moving or you’ve entered a room already dancing.


One of the rooms has a quiet not from silence

but of a sound so low you can’t tell how long

it goes on as if waiting is part of it,

and you can’t see where the long breathed or bowed

note is coming from inside or out again calling in,

it makes you take a seat while you wait to place it.


They fly free around you, so it could even be

just that feeling of escort as you entered

just behind you or one call of them all that surrounds you,

such a far away song so close the leaves

on the plant beside your bench move the far away song

steps around the planter, the bird had been there all along


with me    I’d seen nothing fly up to where I sat,

the song came sparingly and barely audible then

I was telling you about my brother finally talking

about it long after he’d come back from the war.







The peppery smell of eucalyptus burning

in the jungle says you’re coming up on people

like sweat says people or pee does the specie

name in its info clear    in the smell as in

the subway tunnels of New York or its alleys,

startles you with its welcome reassurance

after days away from civilization    home

if only to different peoples’ woven huts

the surprised staring wave between strangers

and that clear    identifier of asking

for water and it given    then in return

your shared strip from a piece of sugar cane to say

we drink eat—    a graffiti pretty much the same

as our faces say so—    we are you don’t kill us.