National Poetry Month Day 23: Elizabeth Robinson

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Jonah: 3

Jonah had a mother who had to be told not to listen to the same song over and over again.  When Jonah lay back on the couch, she would pull on his toes until the knuckles popped.  Which is to say: who knows what feels good?  Jonah confused his story with the story of Pinocchio, also in the gut of the whale.  The plush velvet of the whale’s inner cheek.  Felt good.  Felt safe.  (Ninevah is always waiting.)  Had a mother (note indefinite article).  Had a mother to whom he said: “I don’t believe in God at all.”  Since when does a story emerge from the same song played over and over?  Jonah wondered, if he wondered, on what basis do we instruct those who come before us even if they are not God?  There’s not a God.  Oh, indefinite article, you are lyrical because you allow for doubt.  For interchangeability.  Not one whale for another (these are all the same).  But one protagonist for another.  And one protagonist prevaricating, he with his tongue to the plush velvet of his inner cheek.  And Ninevah always in the offing.

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Photograph of Elizabeth Robinson by John Sarsgard.


Elizabeth Robinson is the author of several collections of poetry, most recently Rumor (Parlor Press) and Blue Heron (Center for Literary Publishing). Robinson’s creative nonfiction has recently appeared in Conjunctions and Scoundrel Time. She was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Award for On Ghosts (Solid Objects) and has been a winner of the National Poetry Series and the Fence Modern Poets Prize. With Jennifer Phelps, Robinson co-edited Quo Anima: innovation and spirituality in contemporary women’s poetry, published in 2019 by University of Akron Press. More from this author →