Fall/Winter 2014

Doren Robbins


Sometimes she hears me, sometimes
she doesn’t give a damn.
The you that reaches
a match-packet across the table
to a cannery worker.
She reeks of the cannery,
weak watermelon wash
in her hair,
listening on and off
to the earphone headpiece device.
She’s an old twenty,
not a whore.
The same hairnet sagging
nightshift schedule that makes
her slouch,
revitalizes her,
at twenty, when that still happens,
when you have a kind of
elevating reserve and
you don’t completely know
what’s happening when it’s happening
to you beyond the impact,
but you are dogged about
withstanding it
and you don’t betray the fact.

Sometimes she’d call me
and recount her talks
at the VA or one of the teen
foster home facilities,
presentations about
beaten children drugs
whatever booze and the rest.
I admired her, I listened
digging my fingernail
into a book cover.

She’d say sometimes you couldn’t
get off heroin enough.
And you drive.
One time she pulled over
somewhere on Topanga Canyon Road.
A few homes standing far apart.
She told me she started
thinking about the nurse
who’s your last mother, maybe
your only mother, someone
without complaint willing to be
your mother, has to be your mother.
And you'll need that mother.
She’s going to smell
from the sponge and cloth
she cleans you with.
Maybe she’s going to smell
from chemo morphine sweat.
And it’s all gratitude
putting your face on that hand,
that last mother, and it’s going to be
a stranger, and that hand
might be indifferent.

From our table I could see
a tall avocado tree in a yard
that bordered the train tracks.
I found her avocado lapping
two leaves, her green doll
with a sun mark on her coat,
on her intimate hill, not a lost hill.

Doren Robbins’ recent collections include Driving Face Down (Blue Lynx Poetry Award 2001), Parking Lot Mood Swing: Autobiographical Monologues and Prose Poetry (2004), My Piece of the Puzzle (2008 PEN Oakland Josephine Miles Poetry Award), and Amnesty Muse (2011). In 2014, imaginaryfriendpress published his chapbook, Title to Pussy Riot.



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