print this page go back one page    

Will Roby: Four Poems

The Coats | His Professor Recommends | Grass | Robert Frost Speaks to Me in EZ-Mart

The Coats

The silver or the dark blue.
The seersucker, the Houndstooth,
American or European—there were hundreds.
Fabric forests. Sleeves to tug.
Mornings, when my father chose a suit
he would open the closet door
with the patience and cold eye of a postal inspector.
The colors leaking out, down the hall into my bedroom.
I watched him mornings, his fingers swallowed first
into the slightly smoky fabric of the coat.
Nothing came between my father and his sales
but the finely worn breath of his suits. The silver
or the dark blue glow of them, even in low-light,
like plants in the night out back in the garden,
like the blanket pulled up to my chin,
like everything floating above the tree-line. As if my father
had invented blue. And stripes down both sleeves—
little flies behind the greenhouse
or lightning off to one side of the sky.

When he dies I'll remember the coats,
the silver or the dark blue.
The tiny movements he made calmly,
early mornings even before the newspaper. His sounds,
the glass milk bottles in their cage
tapping each other into mystery.

His Professor Recommends

His professor recommends Gregory Orr
as if she knew he'd always admired
a certain photograph
taken of the poet on his way somewhere important
judging from the half-smile, half-salute
he gives the camera.
Behind Mr. Orr is a forest—
a patch of woods so green they look
almost clear in the black and white photograph.
Inside the forest are animals,
only some of whom were waiting for the flash.

His professor recommends Gregory Orr
as if the assignment would sting a bit,
or push him towards some novelty spinning
just beyond his reach. A whale perhaps,
a whale inside a dream he'd had.
One in which he'd wet the bed.

His professor recommends Gregory Orr
as if a mockingbird could sing
anything but what it had already heard.
Wasn't this a terrible way to make a living?
To repeat forever the scab language of the others?

His professor recommends Gregory Orr
as if in revolution words had risen
like bubbles from the bottom of the batter
and passed the moon, reminding her to set.

As if words plowed the field too many times.
The poet turned the poet inside out
and found inside, alive, a pair of mice
who were willing their way back in.
Outside was much too bright.

As if reading were enough
to set paper ablaze, nearing a yawn
under an itchy sleeve,
leftenant in the drowsy army—
the one that stands just outside
his bedroom window throwing knives.


For the murkiest-eyed ant
how great the distance from blade to blade,
how plentiful the trunk, the thread-like seedlings
tapping all night on a westward-facing window.

Grass that now I split between my toes,
the advancing, plentiful proof of day, night,
day—that pattern we stick to—
a needle through tomato skin. Grass that seems to grow
up between my toes, grass I wish I could imitate,
grass that wiggles upward through my feet.

For the lover, careful in her hosiery,
kneeling toward a greater stand, perhaps an oak—
how plentiful the tiny cushions
underneath, how sharp the occasional edge,
how wet and earthy at the root. How ancient,

a certain shaped tie of the greenest death.
A reflection of itself, a seedling always
grass, a constant thing to nibble on,
a weapon for some schoolboy, a playtime moustache.
This grass,

for the soldier, how close a friend
while dying; ribboning red over his rifle,
eye to eye with a nubbin of grass,
his lips slightly apart, maybe muttering
the name of his mother. Maybe tasting
blood upon blood, from battle on battle.
Maybe saying, simply, Grass.

Robert Frost Speaks to Me in EZ-Mart

And there may be two or three apples
I myself desired. Climbing up
to take off apple-picking,
as a child in careful steps becomes a John,
a James, a saint he chooses secretly, telling no one.

To be a barrel of the Lord!
There may be two or three
I could pick upon some bough,
and the flailing fall—
the hard conjurer’s trick,
the ripeness of the bruise. You ought have seen!

But apple-picking now seems
a tarnish for the hand
curled inside a cavernous pail—
a lonely abbess on some bough.
This is the essence of winter sleep—
the tree, the apples nearly ready,
the cautious, casual, happening tree.
And I could tell

what form my dreaming was to take,
upon some bough about to take off
apple-picking: I am overtired.
Magnified heaven and all, looking up
the flavor of stars, the still;
and there's a barrel
and there's a barrel that I didn't fill
beside it, and there may be two or three apples
I didn't pick beside it on some bough.

I am overtired
of the great harvest I myself desired.
There were ten thousand thousand fruit to touch,
and every branch to climb and taste
until I paid the cashier at the trunk,
overtired of the great beside.
I am done with apple-picking.

Poet's Biography:
  Will Roby is a perpetual student currently living in Texas, soon to attend the Jack Kerouac School in Boulder, Colorado to pursue a Master's degree in writing and poetics. He has had plays produced across the country, small semi-professional productions usually ending with frustration and an empty bank account. His work has appeared at Melic Review, GW Review, Stirring, StorySouth, and others.

© 1999 - 2005, by the poets featured herein.