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Category: Christine Robbins


How small

The bones in an ear.

When my mother was born,

Her father’s ship

Was breaking. Think

Of the fragile steel. Think

Of the young men falling

Into water, the young men

Crashing planes

That explode inside of ships.

Think of a bird’s

Velocity. Not mass, as much

As light. Think

Of the kamikaze—how late

Did he close his eyes?

Hear a shell cracking, hear

A monstrous cavern

Hatching. Imagine

Your body’s the cavern.

Imagine the light

When you set your mouth

And fly.

My grandfather


A young man’s leg

To keep him alive. Think

Of what moves

In the heaviness of bone.

Think of the cochlea—

The ear’s own fish. Think

Of salt water’s cavern

Beneath a splitting hull

And fear

How small the blade

There was no morphine—

Nothing tender and white

To fill the hollow

In anyone’s mind.

On shore,

Children left to die.

On shore, daughters diving

From cliffs, their young bodies

Smashing. Think of girls

In an invaded land.

Think of breaking

The self, leaving it

Behind. Think of Hiroshima

In a few hot months. When

Did the kamikaze

Close his eyes? Think

Of light and the dead

On every side, think

Of grief’s own speed.

Think of the dead

With their open eyes

And what the living

Leave to the water.

Think of the velocity

Of time. My grandfather

Might have lived

Inside his moving hands

And numbed all of the rest.

And the other man?

They were two

Of the young who survived.

My grandfather went home,

Alive, to a daughter

Who did not smell

Of burning skin.

Think of the moment

When you’d have to close your eyes

And numb all of the rest.

Think of water

On a single leather boot. Think

Of the foot’s firm stance.

Its twenty-six bones.

Think of an anvil

Waiting in the ear.

from Poetry Northwest 12.1 Summer & Fall 2017More by Christine Robbins from the library

Copyright © Christine Robbins
Used with the permission of the author
on behalf of Poetry Northwest.

This program is supported in part by a grant from the Idaho Humanities Council, a State-based program of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this (publication, website, exhibit, etc.) do not necessarily represent those of the Idaho Humanities Council or the National Endowment for the Humanities.