Elizabeth Robinson

Augur

for Robert Kelly

The promise did not promise
to be beautiful.

The promise was of labor,
not virtue.

You perceive the grail: it attests
to its existence, but, as always,

refuses to disclose its whereabouts.
And somewhere you find a landscape,

deep in that landscape,
whose particulars are your birth.

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You, sojourner, find a stained
rag there, a faded scarf

which you read. Could it
have been so long ago

that you learned to read?
When reading is place

bereft of location. When the scarf,
once green, became bluer.

None. Known. Nonce. Anon.
Anonymous. Anomalous.

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You had, perhaps become exhausted
with the saying of it when

the mistake blossoms: exhaustion
is the cure

for reading, for mapping.
Talk, in the hidden place

becomes the work of itself.
A scarf, wadded and stuffed

into the mouth, is exhaled with
great force. See how it lofts

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on the words like a cloud
as they move definitely

away from you. Broken
perception is a place, even

“home,” if you will. The work
was never meant to be ethical. A thing

becomes its own imperative most often
because you live there and you break it.

Extensive practice. When finally the eyes
fail to read the broken script, then:

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yes. You, having so recently heard
of this thing called reading, essay it.

Error-ridden sentence verb subject
you topographical backwards, the

ruddy and green layers of it. In this
placeless specificity, you assay it. Never

a map but a disemboweling, discovery
joyously fractures what it finds, and

deeper. Deep blindness of the word.
Its glee. The work rummaging

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itself, mine brought provisionally
to the surface, silt bubbling into

all streams. Ash caressing this
particular scape like a silk scarf.

The practice of intention is
its own discovery, wise and

iniquitous. “There once was a story,”
you read aloud,

and it undermined itself
in receipt of its recognitions.

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Home or fire? Work
or reworking? If there were a door—

should there have been a door—
entry onto what? Reciprocity

means also exit. And after it all
burned down, haven’t you wondered

why it’s always the chimney
that still remains? One spark

or another as the unseeing eye
forces a blurred word to register, a glint

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made specific by indeterminacy. The
promise offered itself like a body

you may, or may not, have declined. A shapely
word, swathed only in a blue scarf, whose

dimensions fall away before the scarf does.
Down the well or into the mine, up

the chimney. The promise whose articulation
is “poof,” whose word

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lingers as an aroma in the air. You quaff it
through nose and mouth. Smoke, too, is the embodiment of what’s broken.

It fills the dislocated grail with its syrup. You

have always felt its sting in your throat, the hole in the cup

that breathes on your behalf.

Elizabeth Robinson is the author, most recently, of Rumor, from Parlor Press. Being Modernists Together is forthcoming in 2022 from Solid Objects. Recent work has appeared or is forthcoming in Big Other, Denver Quarterly, Fence, New Letters, Plume, Scoundrel Time, and Posit.. With Jennifer Phelps, Robinson co-edited Quo Anima:innovation and spirituality in contemporary women’s poetry, published in 2019 by University of Akron Press.
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About Posit Editor

Susan Lewis (susanlewis.net) is the editor of Posit (positjournal.com) and the author of ten books and chapbooks, including Zoom, winner of the 2017 Washington Prize, Heisenberg's Salon, This Visit, and State of the Union. Her poetry has appeared in such places as The Awl, Berkeley Poetry Review, Boston Review, The Brooklyn Rail, Cimarron, Gargoyle, The Journal, New American Writing, The New Orleans Review, Prelude, Raritan, Seneca Review, So to Speak, Verse, Verse Daily, and VOLT.