Poems from Double Time (3), Group 1 by Robert Lietz


The ticking and chimes add nothing
to the unhinged details, to
the witness disengaged, or to this trimmed lawn,
these rakings fictionalized, have
nothing to say for the appearances, the sounded
densities, the unspecific measures
odd lines rhapsodize, inflecting an idiocy
the village has no means of containing.
See how they swoon when labor splits, re-naming
the world ruefully, and, were the span
incalculable, who knows, when the crap-crafted
eschatology turns political, bestirred
by an inflected and crooner-styled crowd-play, and
by this swaying in compliance,
as if it were not foreknown, well in advance
of the first chimneys, even
as chimneys puff, and wood-scents play above
the blade-space looks of it, where
an intelligence foreclosed, labor, severed
from labor, and blocks from blocks,
by a governor’s agenda.

Pledged against another morning’s occupation,
without a use for history,
except for this anti-world’s, displaying the sweep
from gentrified to ruinous,
should a governor’s persistence seem so much, when
we’ve reclaimed ourselves
from the blustering and bother, the cash we decide
untouchable, from the faults,
undergirded by their birthing, in their own time
come and afterward forbidden, having
proven their worth once, and commanded
interest, leaving behind this withering,
these bitter, and embittered


A singular witness speaks, remembering
what nightmare was, and
what a conspiriting illogic gets to be, like a kind
of dreaming you wake up from
un-refreshed, when a slash insinuates, and
an encumbering susurrus, rising
in its finish, since history is not, whatever they think,
exploitable, and every meal’s an event,
so that the mind cannot go on without its answers,
nor a breathless audience, persuaded
by composure / recompense, by the same stillness,
finding some truth for all of it,
recalled in this book you smuggled in as its last reader,
in these pages, shared among the cells,
and in civilizing after, with this last blown leaf,
tossed from the woods over a roof-line,
through the smoke they’ll task themselves to name
when it has finished, since
there will be one, sure, and one, be sure, who
hasn’t given up on reading, and some,
like the first born to concentration, who saw
for themselves what worth
the effort might resolve to, when the notes
endure, the ticking and chimes persist,
and wisdom parlaying,
among the casual and pariah


There’s no snow yet, aside from the few
air-occupying angry flakes,
and no names to report, except for that scrimmage,
those pre-season jousts, though
the leaves are about done and the heron pond’s
lost its main attraction, with
only these bare woods now imprinting the still water,
where the heron posed apart,
below the hills where truckers snoozed or cut their deals,
with bow season imminent
or well begun for all I know.  And here, lot by lot,
the trailer park pulls out, following
the jobs or bargain sites, or fleeing the inspections
under way, unencumbered
by winter lore or the kids’ tales.  But what’s to tell,
to choose as antidote,
if not thumbed miles, not these clouds turned blue,
these crews repairing splits
to get this stretch to next year’s planning, which
might be wishful thinking, friends,
the wink of a governor, or his raised brow, certain
to snuff the candles out, when
sensitivity’s gone broke, and, field by field,
the locals gamble on how dry,
on a late fall or after-winter harvest, with
so many ways to count,
and just so many ways a family



More than Virtual

The leaves lie out like cards strewn behind by local stardom, though the pond, more accessible,
seems unimpressed by names, by star-power, gussied up in fonts meant to appeal to the fan-base
or the sadder sides of acclamation, followed near enough to hear
cards ticking the Formica, and, hand by hand,
the instantaneity come hard, in concentrated versions, in
the sound-surrounded dark, like an exhaustion,
as you remember it, always more than virtual, when
circumstances chuff, and candidates, leaving
a village for good, already so far back,
the sun came up.


About This Much

What was it living there, walking head-down, uphill into sun
the final few hundred yards into the car lot,
and finding the one that you could own yourself affordably,
if not the prince of style, enough to suit
the cross-trafficked upstate business you bought into, until
the scattering took hold, and the needs, begun
as something once, for a cigar-maker’s or politician’s grandson,
though who could say exactly which, the child
of that antique mustiness you can’t dismiss or celebrate,
about as much as you could ever have
made room for, though the latter, you think,
must seem, about this much,
more sensible.


Being Watched

Remember the afternoons bright being watched, policed
by north-side ethnicities, when all that
mattered much, and the nurturing, about as much of that
as they could risk to be caught sharing,
so that believing must have kept you in its own way, walking
into light, toward a sudden re-acquaintance
with a mother, from that first dizzying space and glance
you had to look away from,
while the blocks around explored all sorts of governance, and
that balance then     – never
what you’d call original     – that schooling you learned
to bless, dealt tables
and tools you had not thought could come to count, so
you must interrupt yourself,
which might only be another turn on truth and its
performance, a sense of the sun
on the curling oak leaves with a mission,
certain to last
through another short term
after all.



Lines scrapped, trimmed out, or finding themselves
in other contexts, the poem insists, but cannot
restore the wrecked young oak a walnut bent in falling,
whatever we do with stakes and rope
to straighten it, supported till spring when we shall see,
outlasting the roses’ ends and re-beginning,
the pumpkins caving on themselves, and the still-green cover
mulch grows hard around, while storms brood,
above the remnant leaves, as sunlight falls on them, and
near noon tilts, with more heart in it
than some Virginia candidates.   Voices, fulfilling a need
to speak, come to the core of vapors lingering, and
words that no ear can hear, no heart can fashion hearts from,
whatever the florid aptitudes, now
that the light has warmed the porch, the heater’s dark, and
the silence follows cheers beyond the news-brief,
at which the wren hops off, away across the deck-boards,
and I look after it, just in time, seeing what it’s into,
just when I start to think what I mean to say begins to matter,
where styling ignorance persuades, and minds,
made duller by allowance, tease and signify, with the gestures
they’ve made do for signature, the ballots
they’ve cast against their own best interest, fathers and sons
alike, in the moment absolved of fratricide
and spending, serving themselves the lost technology, and
the coins they’d counted on as currency.  Why
wouldn’t we guess, shouldn’t we wonder what’s about,
if fathers and sons among, their eyes on the crumbling
far sides of circumstance, clear away what’s left to them,
after the wood gatherers abscond with a few weeks
saved from freezing, fathers and sons alike, strapped
in their pickups say, or stopped in their tracks
indoors, finding all that they will of local hopes,
displayed there on flat panels.

Photo: Elizabeth Williams

Robert Lietz‘s poems have appeared in more than one hundred journals, including Agni Review, Antioch Review, Carolina Quarterly, The Colorado Review, Epoch, The Georgia Review, Mid-American Review, The Missouri Review, The North American Review, The Ontario Review, Poetry, and Shenandoah. Eight collections of poems have been published, including Running in Place, At Park and East Division, The Lindbergh Half-century (L’Epervier Press) The Inheritance (Sandhills Press), and Storm Service and After Business in the West: New and Selected Poems (Basal Books.) Besides the print publications, poems have appeared in several webzines. A net search for “Robert Lietz poetry” will provide a representative selection. In addition, Lietz spends a good deal of time taking, post-processing, and printing photographs he has been making for the past several years, examining the relationship between the image-making and the poems he has made and is exploring.

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