Peter Robinson: Early Poems




All this salty quiet

has unnerved us.


Night’s coquille,

a shadowed thigh


curves over all.

Your flaking sunburn


and curly henna’d hair

summon receptivity.


There’s light enough to see you by,

a low while mise-en-scène.


By the ceiling’s stamen,

pendulous, comes


a soft glimpse through curtains,

Dutch Calvinist church towers


and canals’ dark shimmers

at the window where I’m feeling


you’re near the sink,

wide back, your neck,


distracted by the talk

of punters in the street below.


Photogenic vulva—

I know, I know.




A choice of meat,

and coffee, hot—


that disestranges me.

Details of breakfast


do just as well,

and not a word now.


Where we resort to

and the hole in your sleeve,


don’t mention them—

or the difficulty


of looking you in the eye.

Neither invoke, nor


laugh off that gap,

we hum in unison.


1976 [from Overdrawn Account (London: The Many Press, 1980)]







The crackle of automatic rifle fire

in clear summer air

                             betrays them.

You think they’re

positioned behind the bluff,

a NATO shooting range.

                                       A copse

on the shallow horizon

                      offers some cover

for picnicking out of the sun.

We ride Dutch brakeless bikes

             across a scrub plain,

forests of pine

                      the salient feature.

Behind them, an army corps

practices combat deployment

36 hours from its allotted front line.




There’s a tender fret

        at the edge of our attention

and intent on letting it sleep

                                          we lie

in each other’s arms.

                                Across the sky

puffy white clouds move

                            over the men

with twigs stuck in their hats

and the forest and the plain

and us and watching them

I might be counting sheep.


1976 [from Overdrawn Account (London: The Many Press, 1980)]





My typewriter

without soft pedal,


that black instrument

stutters its durations—


their lodger, remaining

upstairs, as he reads


out loud and moves about.

Words fail me, so left


to myself but listened for.

You’re nearly on your own.


It is colder behind

the door gap and close up


to the crack I’ll catch

those bitter airs.


They are trying duets

which rankle in my ear.


Unrhythmic shout, we speak

the word that silences.


That does for a quiet life.

It will not alleviate


tables, the fixtures

in their front room



but confirms them.

Never your intention


to harm them, you hum

immaterial music,


half-recalled snatches

underneath your breath.


Hermetically sealed,

your mouth allows


each day’s impingement—

which you are, un-greeting.


Too narrow accommodation:

skirting boards, he scrapes


up against her blouse.

The wallpaper flock


blooms close to his eye.

Then the day-to-day rub


became costly in small,

doubtful eye signals.


They patrolled the bounds

of a working privacy.


One day, he posts up

a formal announcement.


It says: ‘I’d prefer

not to meet on the stairs.’


1977  [from Overdrawn Account (London: The Many Press, 1980)]





A cluster of indoor antennae

          and the tuning dials

where in that nook,

          against fast yellows

of the wall appears

                out of self-control,

a household word,

the dog-eyed flickering bust.

And we drink to it libations.


To have that newsreader’s

                         smile intact,

I have sellotaped wires

                         to the ceiling.

Shattered mouth,

             our hold has gone.

Voice-overs of such opinions

to rearrange the pictures,

             we watch to see

     what has happened next.

Then each says, ‘I told you so.’


1977 [from A Part of Rosemary Laxton (Cambridge: Privately Printed, 1979)]






Same difference, as

was said to me

                             Whiskey, oranges,

                              onions, bathroom tiles

The words he uses

aren’t especially his

                              On a lime-green chair

                              pulled up to the table

                              the woman sits writing

                              a series of names

A list of the lists

I’m going to make

                              But that’s my joke

He places what I say

inside quote marks

                               Speak up for yourself

The look on his face

attempting to picture

what effect I give,

quiet, still, and with

roof-beams above me

for a framing device!

                                I’m put in my place

                                making sacrifices to

                                the domestic peace

The genre piece:

                                Now she walks over

                                to the bookcase and says,

                                ‘All the same, I know

                                how you want to talk,

                                but, look, I’m listening

                                to the radio.’

If I even ask him

what was it he said,

he’ll mumble out


You heard,

but I forgive you

                               She speaks so quietly

Speak for yourself

                               In a small living room

                               at the top of the house,

                               there’s a mirror, a clock,

                               and things are placed

                               with regard to each other

to accommodate

                                our differences

Still you refuse to

                                allow me

the last word.


1977 [from A Part of Rosemary Laxton (Cambridge: Privately Printed, 1979)]





She winks to face dissolves,

The End and fade.

                   We go elsewhere.

At adamant distance

a pasty-coloured corridor,

            then your face edge

                        slices air.

Cloud cover fixes

            the great sky curve,

so many feet.

In electric half-dark,

names of lithographed streets

assume a sequence

           and that functions.

   The high walls realign,

our route back home.


You ask to know the reason

it had to end this way.

                  All of them die.

It was fate,

                  the scriptwriter

a hack with the urge to destroy.

Now it’s late.

          That ruddy glimmer


We improvise on love names

and to say

‘I do enjoy your company.’

            A story’s immured

in the back of the head

and neon glints on hair.


1977 [from Perfect Bound no. 3 (Summer 1977)]


Copyright © 2012 by Peter Robinson, all rights reserved. This text may be used and shared in accordance with the fair-use provisions of Copyright law. Archiving, redistribution, or republication of this text on other terms, in any medium, requires the notification of the journal and consent of the author.