liz Robbins


Learn Dutch in a Day

                                                 Munro Galloway

                                                 Munro Galloway

 

Two weeks into the beginning Dutch course,

as she flips through flashcards—heerlijk (lovely),

lekker (tasty)—she finds what she’s been learning.

She turns off the lamp beside the open window

to let it fully rise. Closing her eyes, she brings in

the night, the cool grass scent, the silence

between locusts humming. Here she feels

the hard pulse of her measuring, the strange

unkindness in her life’s frantic learning—

how she judges her minutes at rest as failings.

How obvious—however slight—her relief

when she surpasses someone else. Learning

the language, she sees now—not for a job,

not for a hobby—had been to make herself

feel stronger, the stringing of a splint for

her strained self-reflection. She’d loved too

much, taken too far, Hemingway: that true

nobility lies in being superior to your former

self. Instead, she could try for a tiny dignity

in each moment, turn off for a time the engine

of perpetual goals. Her manual instructs that

the Dutch surround themselves with positive

words—erg goed (very good), zoet (sweet)—

and she sees again their good sense, how they

bring a dash of lightness to everyday interactions,

like how the bright green leaves on beech trees

catch the sun. Tomorrow, she vows, she’ll sit in

her backyard with nothing to study, leaving free

the pine needles she’s due to collect.


The Hours Before the Party

 

In the passenger seat, I’d hold an open-mouthed bottle

of beer, sing above the lull of tires on the road: always

 

the song about green eyes and desire buried in its drum-

beat of danger, like the idea of forsaking all to go

 

gridless out West. My good friend driving, as we crossed

the bridge to where the rich lived, the sun dipping fiery

 

below the river. She and I, dreaming of boys who might

grow to love us. Perhaps I’d meet mine in a park. He’d

 

pass me another beer, we’d talk and drift beneath oak trees

to kiss silently. This was before the days got harder, richer,

 

more gray.  Joy more rare, savory. We didn’t know who

we were; we knew exactly. Jen and I, our pockets with change

 

for the meters, full of music, crossing over. Singing the green-

eyed song that now sparks a sense of loss. Never again

 

eighteen with all the tiny villages beckoning below. Beyond

the bridge lights, we’d drive in circles past the mansions

 

engulfed in trees, in the great shadows of power. All I ever

wanted was to be myself, to be known by someone who

 

loved me. I didn’t see then I had that—before the park,

before the party—laughing in the car with my friend and

 

no one else to be, driving forward into the spreading dark. 


Liz Robbins' third collection, Freaked, won the 2014 Elixir Press Annual Poetry Award; her second collection, Play Button, won the 2010 Cider Press Review Book Award. In 2015, she won the Crab Orchard Review Special Issue Feature Award in Poetry and, in 2016, was nominated for the Pushcart Prize by Fugue. Her poems have appeared in Beloit Poetry Journal, Denver Quarterly, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Kenyon Review Online, Poetry Daily, Rattle, and Garrison Keillor’s The Writer’s Almanac. She’s an associate professor of creative writing at Flagler College in St. Augustine, FL.