A Sequence of Poems
By PETER ROBINSON.
The Audio Track:
‘We’ve done some of it. You and I and “Europe”.’
—Henry James, The Ambassadors
‘Never and always.’
—T. S. Eliot, ‘Little Gidding’
IN A BLEAK July or washed-out August
jet-lag morning, who could she be
coming from that shadowed dreamscape
to start and startle me?
Who is she with those collages,
a perpetual other woman,
still the same, and recognized,
though this time she has changed her hair?
An artist? Her Merzbau exhibit’s
mounted like a low relief
that alters as it’s gazed on now
out of the jostle at a twilight private view.
Has she been modelled from the life –
but composite? Somebody lost?
Someone I had to say goodbye to?
Or is she from that other England?
A country welcoming of strangers …?
We plan to meet. She’ll disappear.
Then I’m left here to find her
in a washed-out August or late bleak July?
ARRANGING TO MEET at another private view
she’s here again, the love of your night
in a scrambled Amsterdam, an Otterlo,
intent on bringing our brief affair to light.
Unpredictably often, this old love comes
back as her series of glimpses to blame you,
blame you for their fraught extremes,
then, out of Europe, she’ll defame you.
Like last night, no, not united in heaven,
she and her clan were explaining how even
one reason’s enough – fair enough, now – to shame you;
but, still, as a cooling tower’s up-plumed steam
joins its cloud cover, she’ll claim you,
come over such distance to meet in a dream.
THEN SUDDENLY SHE pins me down.
‘You still won’t let me go,’ she says.
‘You’re just like Goethe
murdering his daughter …’
though maybe only for the rhyme;
and I think: could she have meant Rilke?
‘But no, it’s you won’t let me be,’
I tell her. ‘Like false memory,
you fill my dreams, time after time,
with accusations hardly just.’
Waking to poplars, as if pixelated,
seen through fine mosquito screen
and still in night-refreshened air
I miss her, she alive somewhere,
inside me somehow like a friend –
oh friend, neither well-loved nor well-lost!
A SUNSET OVER golf-course divots
is picking out the debris –
that demeaning scenery …
With her perfume, bare armpits,
‘You love me?’ she asks now and I,
I’m too flummoxed to reply.
Peter Robinson’s 2020 publications are a sequence for poems, Bonjour Mr Inshaw, from Two Rivers Press, and Poetry & Money: A Speculation, literary criticism, from Liverpool University Press. The Personal Art: Essays, Reviews & Memoirs will be published by Shearsman Books in 2021. He is a professor of literature at the University of Reading and poetry editor for Two Rivers Press. An archive of his work published in The Fortnightly Review is here.
Top image: Relief with Yellow Rectangle 2, by Kurt Schwitters 1928. Oil paint, wood, brass, steel. Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo, © Kurt Schwitters, 1928.