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.


KATHLEEN ROONEY is a founding editor of Rose Metal Press, a nonprofit publisher of literary work in hybrid genres, and a founding member of Poems While You Wait, a three-person team of poets and their typewriters who compose commissioned poetry on demand. She is the author of six books of poetry and nonfiction including, most recently, the just-released novel in poems Robinson Alone (Gold Wake Press), based on the life and work of Weldon Kees, the essay collection For You, For You I Am Trilling These Songs (Counterpoint, 2010), and the art modeling memoir Live Nude Girl: My Life as an Object (University of Arkansas Press, 2009). Her first book is Reading with Oprah: The Book Club That Changed America (University of Arkansas Press, 2005), and her first poetry collection, Oneiromance (an epithalamion) won the 2007 Gatewood Prize from the feminist publisher Switchback Books. With Elisa Gabbert, she is the author of That Tiny Insane Voluptuousness (Otoliths, 2008) and the forthcoming chapbook The Kind of Beauty That Has Nowhere to Go (Hyacinth Girl Press, 2013). She lives in Chicago with her husband, the writer Martin Seay, and works as a Visiting Assistant Professor of English and Creative Writing at DePaul and a Visiting Writer at Roosevelt University.

2 responses to “Robinson’s Hometown”

  1. Beautiful work, Kathleen. I loved this poem the first time I read it, and I enjoy it even more the second time around.

  2. Thanks, Rich. It’s the first poem in a whole manuscript of Robinson ones, and I’m happy to have it here.

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