Three Poems by Tim Robbins


I’ve always loved getting up early. Needed to
get up early. Claimed that early is Reason’s
hour. Hinted that 3:00 a.m. is the gate
where disturbing dreams and the certainty
of dawn tryst, whisper, mate, part. I’ve sighed
that early masters me and bragged that I once
cinched a dog collar around its handsome throat.
I said it comes from my grandparent farmers—
and when I sensed the trembling nakedness
beside me had a thing about farm boys
I lied about chores in the dark and sprawling
lard breakfasts. I joked that milking cows
accounted for my expert hand jobs. When I
was younger early was all about freedom
and noise. I was Joel MacRae on a bay,
waking the cornfields, waking moviegoers
to Rogers and Hammerstein joys staged just
for them. I think of this wistfully as I stir
instant coffee and heat up lasagna in practical
silence. Twenty years with a lovely lie-abed
have trained me to set the plate down
like a socked foot on carpet. And yes,
when I think how crucial stealth is to
marriage, a shiver seizes my scalp.


The Blood Patch

The emergency room doctor has the
nerve to ask how I became positive.
I’m in too much pain to be a smart ass,
to tell him I was just born optimistic.

He’s going to syphon blood from
the crook of my arm and push it into
a wound in my dura mater. Blood
that could kill him will kill my pain.

The wound was a gift from a
doctor who laid me belly-down on a
tower of pillows, arching my back
like an outraged cat.

It was so painful I soiled the
table. My blood pressure fell
like a house into a sinkhole.
Now in a fetal curl, I dream

you’re spooning me; you’re piling
pillows under my groin. I marvel how
being handled can differ so much
from one man to another.


Death Bed

She records “Lady in Satin” in
a Metropolitan Hospital bed,
lying on, covered by stiff, sterile
cotton; chanting with her
half-eaten larynx, liver, heart.
Ray Ellis orchestrates her useless
treatment. A priest hears her
vinyl penance. The NYPD
posts an armed angel outside her
door to stop the anti-jazz demon
from shitting on the rites—the
anointment, the communion, the
confession I’d give every
song I know to hear.

Tim Robbins teaches ESL. He has a B.A. in French and an M.A. in Applied Linguistics. He has been a regular contributor to Hanging Loose since 1978. His poems have appeared in Three New Poets, Slant, Main Street Rag, Adelaide Literary Magazine, Off The Coast and others. His collection Denny’s Arbor Vitae was published in 2017. He lives with his husband of twenty years in Kenosha, Wisconsin, birthplace of Orson Welles.