Poetry

Robyn sold her first piece of published writing at age 17 to the Canadian Children’s Annual – a piece since anthologized for schools across Canada. 

Robyn is a founding member of the writers’ & speakers’ collective Boularderie Island Press.

The following writings are excerpted from her books currently slated for publication with BIP.  A Hundred Poems About Flowers – The First Twenty-Five, formed the featured text for an exhibition of paintings by artists Cathy Groulx and Rita Milton at the Ingersoll Creative Arts Centre gallery, Ontario, January 2013. This exhibit, poems and paintings, will eventually be reproduced in book form, to include the exhibit’s recorded readings of poems by the author.

from The Pharaoh of Good and Ill –

Whose
Decide whose you are
once and for all. Then give up
the cleaving judgement
that tears the infant in half.
You cannot have
love and superiority both.
Gone the old gall, gone
hurt, rage in waves
of joy to know whose
you are. Free the heart
for greater deeds, untie
your passing show let it
swirl away downstream. Board
the basket of bulrushes,
set out for your destiny
with the Pharaoh of Good and Ill 
confident 
in whose you are

There’s something in all of us
There’s something in all of us 
that won’t yield
to improvement. Something like shouting
eating, something
like rock
or steel, that won’t yield, the thirst
for water: as soon give it up 
as die. Deep the long well of days 
lies this whatever 
in all of us, the stony throat
tender round something 
even more precious. Warrior selves
refuse to yield up 
those crossed wooden arms
at the roped wheel of our 
one soul’s purpose

Form
It will make you happy.
Oh not permanently, the days
will still bring their lunatics
to be solaced. But you will know
you move among your days
like a gardener stepping through her blooms
and it will be enough, it will be
good often, knowing that after
comes the seed and the sharing, new
plants in other gardens, and you
will be happy, watching it all
spread and grow, the biggest riots
you will face now
those of colour, form,
unbound

from A Hundred Poems About Flowers –

Morning Garden
I love how his garment
described a circle
spun tubular, seamless, one woven
plane of threads
with their tails in their own mouths
so guards wanted to game
for it, reluctant
to see infinity
made dual. The subversiveness
of dice thrown
to seal its fate as whole
while singularity
hummed on, bleeding 
above heads that wept or watched
the roll, impatient. Duality
cast from the leather cup 
drags our gaze now
the wearer
of that robe and its blessings
a secret sorority
running down morning garden
its still tomb-empty
weave
enfolds

Heaven in a Wild Flower
affirmation for Lent

To see a world in a grain of sand
And Heaven in a wild flower
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour.
– Wm. Blake


My grain of sand
is round with flowers
I count the petals
with the hours
Neither offers great relief
for the dune’s unending grief
but in this grain
the grief grows less
to know a bloom
is effortless
Break out hoe
and trowel now
turn the soil
grip the plough
rake and scratch
press down the seeds
let them cancel
your misdeeds
Soak with tears
the thorny ground
and watch your shoots
turn hell around

from Hymns for the Never-Bastard King –

Devotions
My devotion
is quaint, I know
It’s the times.
Sluiced by study
– the bird-dog heart
when bird
is the dove descending –
clarity arcana-borne
digs a pool its pure place
not immune to tragedy
nor untouched. Paradoxically
or not, the dove isolates: so few
want to weather
any tragedy
let alone the Worst, unaware
Your light on the other side
makes merriment
of running blood.
Who bathed in love
and was honed in violence
healed wound-wisened soles
to race down ages
and hug whomever
will pause by the pool
and think,
and drink


At the Hem
Part of the problem
of course
is that You were man
and I’m a woman.
Layered with politics
of a different pattern
in every age, opinion’s a baglady
buried in bundling
against current cold. I’ve peeled
the rags off one by one
till at some point Your hand
took over, a touch like the one
that gal with blood-issue
stole and the rest
dissolve. I find my skin,
begin to turn, dance.
Make this
pornographic who will:
you do not dance yet
then, and joy
only awaits you

Gospel Hour
Split the atom
split a hair
mine the old truths mirrored there
if you can; the perfect tale
stands beside you
wan and pale.
What’s forgotten can’t return.
Shoulder the cloak
inspect shame’s burn
reconvene the joy of saints
and lower your pallet of complaints.
Focus a beam on what’s below:
see the Source-light
bend His bow, cock an arrow
into place
fix on dust
and broken lace,
loose what’s made
from love and bone –
both gift and blessing
and gift alone.
Lift your feet
to juster ways
hum thanksgivings
all your days:
truer stories won’t be told
nor more-erased
death’s bitter cold.


Sympathy for Thomas II
And yet how have we stripped
a simple man’s need
for directness – his finger, the
scars – of so much
pathos? His spirit stands
overlooked
good deeds, dogged love
subsumed to a personality
we reject as merely
partnered by five senses. Haven’t
we all been caught
this way, gloomy declaration
confronted by joy
so great we demand affirmations? Not that
we’ve ever met as mirage
a joy so great. So why wonder
at his need to touch the Beloved
alive and whole again
and offering kindly? Why doubt
that invitation
made with anything but
welcome, love? No censure. No
blame. The outstretched
iridescent hand, now so experienced
in the stretching-out: remade again,
and sharing His re-creation
with a friend. A friend He knew
always appreciated
the feel
of the finer things in life.

Sympathy for Thomas III
I see him, Thomas
as one who liked his meat
and slurped when drinking.
Conscious to enjoy
flavour and tidiness, blunter
in conversation even
veering to pronouncement
when nobody he thought smarter
was present. Yet confronted
with himself in the right light
he would subside humbly, welcome
instruction – even if
– he’d admit later –
it was all above his head. Dear things
roosted in that head his Master
chose to wave down to. These
I find I can take on faith
and do not need to touch: the size
of grief
he was so eager to erase
beyond all doubt
: how the feel
of those scarred holes
lit the rest of his life like a sunrise.

from Something Owen –

…When Edith came to a little, she was in a sort of alcove off the visitation parlour. Beside her stood something large draped with a plaid sheet. A hand-lettered card pinned to it said “Fredericks – Keep Covered”. This told Edith that in fact the large thing under the sheet was Owen’s funeral sculpture, finished but kept hidden until official unveiling at the Internment. Fancy headstones were carved by the director of the funeral home, who was actually a sculptor from Montreal in his real life; the funeral home was his Day Job. “It keeps him working and guarantees sales,” Owen had told her.

Edith was seated before the voluminous plaid sheet and Dr. Gilmore was crouched solicitously at her knee, gazing up at her. He had, she saw, her wrist between his two pulse-taking fingers yet again. Was it professional, or merely a tic?

“I actually came to check on you,” he was saying. “How are you coping? Okay? No more thugs?”
Edith sniffed and wiped her nose. Apparently he had given her a box of Funeral Parlour tissues. They were plaid also, though a different plaid which clashed with the statue drape. Oh my goodness, Owen was saying, Don’t they know those two Scottish clans hated each other? She nodded at Dr. Gilmore.

“Got the rest of the day off work, at least?” he continued.

Edith was abruptly indignant. “They made me. It was all assumed. Stipes is handling my stuff and he’ll botch it as usual.”

“Ms. Buckle,” Dr. Gilmore said. Here it comes, Owen predicted, his Look of Infinite Compassion. Edith studied Dr. Gilmore. Owen was right. Dr. Gilmore’s face suffused with that softness Edith was sure he himself knew nothing about. “At any given time, one of us will do.”

Argue with that, Owen said.

Then the funeral home began to fill up, and in short order Dr. Gilmore, sleep-deprived eyelids drooping apologetically, took his leave because Owen’s visitation was now packed, and somebody – Edith was not sure who – had brought a boom box and plugged it into the wall behind the credenza. The music was Neil Diamond, singing something about keeping a circle together, and everyone began to sniffle. Somehow this became Roberta Flack belting out “I Will Survive” to a heavy disco beat, and pretty soon people’s tears gave way to dancing.

Edith peeped out from her alcove at Owen in his coffin. Amongst the funerary bouquets his tan, though fake, at least didn’t look it. He might have been resting on a bench in Allen Gardens, sleeping off his exasperation over Edith’s latest chick flick (Hope Floats, for instance, or Raising Helen). Or just regrouping after a wheelchair rumba with some favorite litigant (the one charged with rude slogans on his clothesline t-shirts had been a special chum, Edith recalled). She watched Owen’s dead tanned face through the milling bodies, to a soundtrack of retro tunes, until her view became intermittent glimpses and then disappeared. The tune turned to a slow number, something adenoidal and affectionate sung by – Edith sat up straighter, suspicious – Leonard Cohen. Couples paired off, clinched, stepped close. Owen’s body reappeared again, now with a party noise-maker sticking out from between his lips.

Edith felt her tears leave her for all time. Into her instead tided sadness: a wave of heavy, sedate, numbing sadness which told her that Owen was lost and he always would be, and his voice in her head was going to, one of these days, fade out as the memory it really was. She lifted the fireman’s helmet from her lap and hid her face in it and breathed. It didn’t smell of Owen, not at all. It smelled of industrial plastic and leather harness and metal snaps and buckles, and faintly, acridly, of smoke. People had died in that smoke, people had been rescued in it.

When Edith lifted her head Ian was standing in the alcove with her. He leaned against the wall staring out at the dancers, humming along as if unaware he was doing so, on his face a look of sorrow to rival Edith’s own.

“Oh Ian,” said Edith unexpectedly.

Ian turned and looked at her. He lifted a hand in a sort of wave. Then he came over and took Edith’s elbow, and led her into the rotating press of Owen’s friends. He pulled her into his arms surprisingly gently. They stood still for a bit, letting others move around them. Then they began to turn, stepping ever so little, and they hid their faces in each other’s necks

Edith rested the helmet rim against his shoulders. She was careful to avoid lower places where, under the suit which was not nearly as nice as Owen’s, Ian sported collections of new stitches. Despite everything, she felt a fresh need for forgiveness, and without thinking she turned her head and kissed his bent cheek under his closed eyelashes, thinking as she did so that it might have been Owen. He didn’t open his eyes.

This, she heard Owen breathe, is as good as it gets –

and she knew he meant it, in the same moment that Ian whispered hoarsely, next to her ear, “Amen.”