Recent Work By Kathleen Rooney

What’s with the mustache?

Robinson Alone is a book of poems, but it is also a novel in which I derive a character from the life of the mid-century poet and mysterious disappearee Weldon Kees (1914-1955?), as well as from his alter ego Robinson. Although Kees’ Robinson poems are not persona poems, nor, for the most part, are mine—the poems speak about Robinson and not for Robinson—the experience of writing them has still been one of imagining myself into somebody else’s body and mindset. Plus, I have always been intrinsically fascinated with mustaches and Kees had a stylish one.


She used to walk through the house, skirt rustling
like rain. How was he to know she’d end up drunk—

face puffed like a corpse in a lake? That they’d grow
as capable of savagery as they used to be of grace?

Long before the strain of life on the coasts, they
roasted each other after work at night, getting tight

together on gin & 7 Up. When it got too late
for her to read, or him to type, they’d fall asleep,

has nothing to do with Dante. You say
it with an accent: you say it Be-at-trice.

A dirt road lined with leafless trees.
Smokestacks. Some background.

A slight white kid in white kid shoes
& a dress with ruffles & three pearl

buttons. Structures skidded against
the flat flat plains, all rising vertical

sightlines man-grown or man-made.
The corn bursting. The First Presbyterian

Church. The Institution for Feeble-
Minded Youth. The football games

& the Buffalo Bill Street Parade
& Robinson acting in elementary

school plays: Sir Lancelot once,
& Pinocchio, obviously. A little man.

Robinson reading on the family porch.
Torchsongs wafting from the nighttime

radio—AM broadcasts lofting
like ghosts from real cities. This

& his mother’s artful research—her side
is descended from the Plantagenets,

maybe signed the Magna Carta—&
his suffragette Aunt Clara giving him

a French dictionary for high school
graduation chart it out for Robinson:

most of the world is not in Nebraska.
Robinson lacks patience for too much

prelude, rude though it is to be so
fidgety, ungrateful. This hateful small.

This hateful empty. Civic & dutiful.
Not not beautiful. These moldered.

These elderly. Soon-to-be outgrown.
He simply must. Or bust. A loner

ill-suited to being alone. In a double-
breasted suit. En route to elsewhere.