On the Good

What is the "good"—

a term often considered irrelevant,

inexpedient (see Evil)

            (But might we

             permit a moment of

             tender possibility here?)

The good is a series of variables

that attach to no specific referents.

In other words—

          Yes, exactly—other words. Ad infinitum.

                                                                             (We do permit

                                                                          the salt its savor.

                                                                         We care so little,

                                                                      no, not so little, so


                                                        whose tongue it alights on.)

A further example of the good:

the creature rushes excitedly to the door

upon the arrival of its master or mistress.

It yelps, it weeps.

Its pleasure is so hard to read—an arrangement, a series of variables

so constellated

which might otherwise suggest terror.

Yes, the good in relation to arrivals.

To be elaborated later.

If ever.

Here we find that the good is incorrigibly tardy.

This is the eros of goodness, its

delayed arrival.

The arrival is planted within another arrival.


Like a mirror lit above a candle. The speaker pauses to light one now.

Goodness is fascinated by this interruption of the

concrete act

because goodness is so rarely literal.

The eros of the good is its mode of abstraction. Similarly, all the arts

(goodness being their exemplary practice)

are abstract.  That is, it is so easy in the practice of

the art of goodness to lose one's train of thought. Abstraction as the way

of impediment: in the way.

The good—let us try this out—can we make our model particular and concrete?

Say, for example, that the good is the art of scent. Variables, then:

particulate matter, motes far too fine for the eye to see, for the fingers to perceive


the swath of airs through which they wash.

Here in the world pervaded by the perfume of goodness, the breath

congests. Abstraction impedes the necessity

of respiration. Good breath obstructing the way of its perfume.


On a Variant Baptism 






We did not want

to say "kiss," the

word—we had been taught—was so

sentimental. Something other

took its place, the word "we," banished

from itself as it parted.


Even the most innocent

knew. That

was its horizon.

How one holds what repeats: under which

and over which.


parting its



Surely the breath

did not know the mouth, the


of the kiss, its ashamed

comportment as it held

on to what would revive it

to its surface. Who we were

at a remove, parting: they. They

did not say it was



On Bitterness 

Consider this, that all

sensation may be sectioned like citrus.

The membrane (what holds sensation in)

is the bitter part.

Therefore this poem will proceed in sections.

Section One:
having to do with bitterness and perversity 

When young, the two girls sat side by side in church.

The taller one, the one with the long curly hair, chewed mercilessly
on her nails.

The buck-toothed girl looked on.

The mother of the taller procured a bottle of bitter liquid, and this she painted on
her daughter's ragged nails to deter her chewing.

Whereupon the buck-toothed girl demanded that her nails be painted too.

The two girls sat side by side in the pew avidly sucking the bitterness from their fingers.

           We renege on the plan of sections.

This is all the bitterness we can portray today.

On the table, strings of white pith broadcast their spotless bitter purity.

The very needle of acrimony would brighten to be

threaded through with the filaments of

this, remainder

of fruit.


On Melody 

If the melody is a song of adulation,

it is made with the voice that

bends over the song and protects it with praise.

            The song glorifies itself, which is the voice.

Then the melody remains, left behind, a cast-off garment still holding on to

the scent of the body that once wore it. The vocal chords

no longer rub together to approximate sound or tune, just

the hand, whose hand, finding its way into the sleeve of tune, and 

hereafter inhaling, inhaling the odor of it.


The Crucial Digression 

The doctor preferred to be called a physician.

He instructed the patient to open the mouth and say, "Ah."

This brought on a yawn: that "ah." Those who are suggestible can always

be made to do it. All about us people now feel the urge to yawn.

A light shines into the throat. It is as expected, lush and anticipatory inside.

The author of the poem has her eye upon this, and can think of nothing so

much as velvet curtains parting as the show is about to begin.

Think of instruction as a throat, bi-directional.

It opens at the physicians bidding. It receives and swallows the light.

So rarely is it alone. To have swallowed so much light as to have formed a curtain

for it. The syncopation of solitude, raised abstractly, like a curtain, on the byway of

its narrative. The throat closes on this suggestion just as the viewer haplessly


An ending is an ending. Practice a bit of cautery on the throat. Heed, you singer
behind the scrim. Musical notes in the shape of diamonds. The metaphysician
practices a bit of commerce.

Trust yourself, without irony, to the magician. Musical notes in the shape

of the sun: completely devoid of melody. The penlight has a secret device in it that

whispers "ah" coaxingly. Doctor, I have trusted you from time eternal. Here is the

hollow of my throat, and see how it moves this way. That.

The breath, you see, moves in. Out. The metaphysician begs our trust.

The throat is a hollow cylinder curtained in sunlight. Irrelevant as conduit.

The end is the means to the end. Like the compass. It does not know the

light source, but can predict it. Irrelevant.

                                                               what the practitioner prefers to be called. 


Elizabeth Robinson is the author, most recently, of The Orphan & its Relations (Fence, 2008) and Also Known As (Apogee, 2009). Three Novels (a poetry collection) is forthcoming from Omnidawn in 2011. Robinson has been a winner of the Fence Modern Poets and co-edits EtherDome Chapbooks with Colleen Lookingbill and Instance Press with Beth Anderson and Laura Sims.