Tag Archives: Robert Peake

The Night Repairman

by Robert Peake

In his tool bag, there are candles,
long tapers like the stiff fingers
of a giant’s doll. He uses matches,
strike-on-box, and the flame begins
long before the match head leaves
the end of its textured runway.

Night flares up, from time to time,
just like this. The firemen
are no use. What is broken—a line,
a song, the handle of a door
into the life you always wanted—
can not be joined with Sellotape.

He is short, and, like a toad,
his eyes blink from the sides.
He takes his coffee black.
In his tool bag there are ointments
for the eyelids, powders to inhale.
Arsenic fills his bubble level.

Keep him busy with idle talking,
keep telling the truth to confuse him.
Watch his webbed hands, both of them,
how they delight in the leverage
of the spanner, the heft of a crowbar.
Admire from a distance, just in case.


Blessing the Bankers

by Robert Peake

“…one of the principal Chinese curses heaped upon an enemy is,
‘May you live in an interesting age.'”
— Frederic R. Coudert

They are still out there, the stars, commanding
more depth than ever. The light from Venus

seems closer than is safe, more luminous
than a bad idea ablaze in an innocent mind.

But what is innocent? We think, at first, a baby,
upon whose face the weather moves in bursts,

who has not discovered volume control
and empties his bellowed lungs with wailing.

Here, too, in the dusk of life, we wail.
We thought the good times would never end,

forgot the dams were built against bursting,
how terrible the water, still and black.

We troubled no-one with our dreaming.
The surface of the sky went on with changes.

The blessings laid by our mothers on our foreheads—
let this one live a simple life, uncomplicated—

catch fire beneath the weak-but-omnipresent moon.
“Let this one be a banker, made of bricks.”

Even the tear-down crews are out of work, must find
something else to pull against, at home.

It is winter still, though it feels like spring.
The newspapers print ads for filing bankruptcy—

such a word, the rupture of banking, which means
to pile up, as along the edge of a river—banks

to guard against the overspill, the rebel wave,
the slow rising water, seeking the floodplain.

Gather that child into your arms, the one
you hoped was owed a simple life. The waters rise.

Postcards from the War Hospital

by Robert Peake

The leaves are silvering
in a patch of sun,
the gray leaves, catching light.

I have run out of topics
for dreaming, so I make them up:
each morning, a new lie.

The sister of Patience
is Suffering. Gray wool skirts,
a nurse’s cap. The end of ends.

Nothing more prismatic than
a pirate film at the matinee:
dust in a shaft of light.

Under the dragon’s tongue,
a tiny pebble of black saliva.
Each of us, our ignominies.

The leaves are sleeping
in a patch of darkness.
Let them. They have earned it.

The war. Always the war.
We will run out of morphine soon.
The radio flickers indifferently.

Cold morning. Cold night.
In between: the radiator
groaning like a sore old man.

If I lose the leg, another
will sprout in its place.
I will walk upon the air.

The leaves are decomposing.
Unseen creatures eat away.
The gangrene has come back.

Middle-Aged Woman at the Pastry Counter

by Robert Peake

“There is another world, and it is in this one.”
-Paul Éluard

Lit mostly by the cake display, her face
describes the thickened cream’s warm sheen,
reflects the yellow tube light from above.

Around her eyes, the lines bunch up
like crêpe de chine, the snow-globe eyes
and cheeks of custard skin, her chin

drawn down toward the glass, unaware,
as it was when she was young and light poured over
the dew-glazed lawn, wanting only to reach her.

She might have been regarding a cone of roses,
a new grandson laid in the bend of her arm,
or clouds multiplying in a furnace of sky.

But whorls in the piped-out frosting press a jam
print in her mind. Water gathers behind her tongue,
and the thought of a spatula descends like a hand

through a sandcastle. The stiff-walled turrets
would seem to give back an empty ring if tapped,
as if a secret rap might open a small, arched door.

(Who dwells within would know the reason for her
fading hair and sagging breasts, the cupcake
huts peopled with soothsayers and quacks.)

Late at night, when I was young, the posters
on my bedroom wall would wink and dance, while
ships of speckled light would glide in the dark.

Clockwork rooms would open in my pillowcase,
and this must be what lies behind that door.
I watch her growing younger as she stares.

She never looks up. She does not know I am there.
Yet children play with one another easily
when drawn outside together by the sun.

So, let us sink our hands together in leavening dough,
and lick the bowl and egg beaters to a gleam,
shovel on frosting with bricklayer confidence,

piling up edible bedtime tales: a tower of Babel
for Hansel and Gretel, Jericho’s walls,
assailed by songbirds, crumbling to gingerbread.

Any moment, she will turn back to her cart,
and trundle slowly toward the vegetable aisle,
our custard world collapsing like her hair.

So, let the gliding ships hoist up their masts,
and set the Order of Stiff Frosting on the march,
while toothpicks still prop up our paradise.