the poetry that matters

Robert McKay

Robert McKay's first collection is Cities of rain (Honeybee Press, 2012). Home is the Old North End of Burlington, Vermont. His poetry has recently appeared in OccuPoetry, Siren, Measure and others, and has been set to music in the Vermont Poetry and Song Project. His criticism has appeared in Visions of Joanna Newsom (Roan Press, 2009) and The Occupied Oakland Tribune. He was an undergraduate fellow at the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference in 2008. He is associate editor of The Salon, a scrappy handmade journal of established and emerging writers.


Anatomical gallery, occupied territory

Carnal installation of finitude                    - Badiou,

"Third Sketch for a Manifesto of Affirmationist Art



Looking aside from the canvas of unravelled Flesh,

Anatomic anatman found collage of meat, froth-limned lascerate

of Science, "one" hears the familiar algorhythmic Cricket

one's phone makes on demand, demanding one answer.

One answers, one raises the Frozen

glass brick of meadow to one's ear.



One exits the glass brick full of mummies, of sarcophagai; one slips

between red brooding walls looming out

into Nature, that more patient aesthete,

as seen through the park's curated

collection of trees. Some coal-black, wet,

some still Burning. Their still flesh-fountains Frame

the light boiling down to syrup in the west,

the West exhaling pennants of smoke;

the vapors catch the thrice-

removed burning of the Streets'

sweated-out light. In the park's

embrace of relative dimness, Solitudes pass

tethered to telephones, anchored

to someplace Other than here, some voice somewhere

amidst Another evening, and one also

is anchored in one's turn, by one's golden eyechains, to the votive light

of the Small, Cold, infinitely accepting, absorbent

screen on which one writes, that screen Soft and smooth

as a wax tablet, as a shifting brick of light among

the city's million pavingstones, gaseous Rock,

telegraph machine for penpals on another planet.


At the zenith the darkness

cinches Shut.



Nature blinks Off. Art, behind one through plate glass,

blinks On.



In the Park the tents close in around one, breathing, accusing one like a Herd

of tombstones








If the grass



        If the grass were not alliterative, if it did not

echo the same and the same and the same fricatives over the rolling dirt,

if the grass


        did not wave at the atmosphere retreating

into perspective, into History;

if History




        did not suffice, did not suffuse,

did not suffuse space, the watery bleeding-out of space, with its elixir of thorns.

If thorns


        did not enter my flesh. Did not enter my spirit. If spirit

were not not, were not a word for something about the flesh.

If it were a word instead for something about thorns.                                                      

From Cities of rain










                                for Ariel Wengroff, after two versions of Lorca




Clock covered with, or made of


                Clock like a fruit

with a pit of despair.

                A slowly rotating pith.


Measure of the wind

                and of the sweet wind of decay

blowing, blowing, inside its placid face.


Rationer of flame.                                                                                                        

 From Cities of rain








These watersheds hide

for Estefania Puerta


geometries of rust,

the bridges swathed in fog and ambient ice.

The river's industrial breath.


Silted speech. Silted memory.

On the crumbling concrete bank,

you draw your trumpet like a sword.


Flocks of brass-plated cries weep away,

joining the river's freight of voices.


Flock of leaves.

Your mournfully shaking words.

These patiently stampeding herds of ice.


Paradox: fog desiccates your voice.

Your voice, full of symmetrically bird-shaped holes.


Each bird is a window on a desert.


These watersheds hide many things;

the endless brass glitter

of the desert behind the holes in your voice

is merely one of them.


                                                                                                                From Cities of rain







Bohemian masque @ the End of History


                            August 2011





                                                                                costumes flayed off,


we sit

on the front porch in the smolder of

                                                                                morning & drink


coffee in the obliterated cityscape


                                                                                & talk

re: this re: that re: the sun as the sun drags

                                                                                up &

out of the radioactive haze & we wait

                                                                                & listen

to the morning sirens calling like Birds of escape

like Planes of escape

                                                                                to no one

                                                                                (calling our Names)

we don't answer we pret-


not to hear we talk re: this re: that

re: the Weather perhaps


to mention its nuclear wintriness its globally warmed

Heat its casual







Last night

at the Speakeasy After the Apocalypse

we dressed our finest


the bartenders all wore gasmasks the guests

dressed as undead flappers radioactive pimps

                                                                                & poets

Through the evening's scavenged Gates of broken glass

                                                                                they came

                                                                                The guests

did not foment revolution they did


talk politics not theorize not talk

History that hasn't happened yet they

                                                                                did not

talk in their Voices but in Voices



from a cylindrical wax museum

from a vinyl Grave


This morning after the End we sit



of nuclear ash from the coffee


although we are supposed to be young this is the end

                                                                                of our lives

                                                                                this is the End

of History we were born just before

                                                                                it ended

While we were still sleeping the sleep of


                                                                                of children

the End of days was declared, the Golden,

the halcyon

                                                                                2nd childhood

                                                                                & obediently

everyone became children

                                                                                & slept &

the beautiful dream History


                                                                                (from which we can't

                                                                                wake up)

ended &

then there was no more Then

                                                                                & only now

do we awake & realize this is the End

                                                                                not only

is this the End but it has been the End

since 20 years ago since we


our Beginning our Middle have been inside the End

so Now


this really is the End

the End of the End

                                                                                now what

happens Then?






Then the crows rise like an army over the




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                                                                                                                     April 21, 2013