Picture of Robert

photo credit: John F. Martin

Robert’s latest book, Dragging the Lake, was published by Carnegie Mellon in 2006. His first book, Door to Door, was selected by Yusef Komunyakaa as winner of the Poets out Loud Prize and published by Fordham University Press in 2002. Robert is a native of the San Francisco Bay Area. His poems have appeared in Field, The Iowa Review, New England Review, North American Review, The Southern Review, Threepenny Review, and other journals. He has received a poetry fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts and a Pushcart Prize. He lives in Oakland with his wife and three cats.

Visit Robert's website at: http://robertthomaspoems.com/.

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Email Robert Thomas at RThomas@KVN.com




Film Noir

I look for you everywhere: in the 4:00 A.M. red snapper alleys
of Chinatown, slick of fish on the street with blocks of ice,
men still swilling bowls of hot noodles and onions in silence;
down the aisles of the Basilica of Star of the Sea, votive candles
in the alcove, no sound but the click of my shoes on Spanish tile;
down terraces of lurid azaleas overlooking the bay as the yellow
lights of the bridge come on--but there's not a trace, not a foil
from one of those tamarind treats you suck on all day, not a star
out of place. Did you ever exist? I come back to my room,
a charred pot of water on the stove I forgot to turn off,
and wash my face in the city's hard water. Why go on?
I could talk to a thousand cab drivers, hedge trimmers and
altar boys--they wouldn't know a thing, not if I gave them
a hundred-dollar bill and asked them to drive down every
doglegged back road on the coast until they remembered
something, anything, unusual: a dowager teaching French
to her cockatiel in the cage on the back seat, "Enchanté!"

Was there perhaps a girl in a pink chemise walking down a dirt
road carrying a sextant? No? Then was there perhaps a winter day
without a cloud in the sky? I am looking for any vestige. There are
in fact hopeful signs: I searched the Old Mint, abandoned for years,
and I found a lens on the marble floor, a camera lens; someone
on my bus left behind a French novel, one of those with the white
paper covers and red lettering: La Veste verte, "The Green Jacket";
there is a theater out near Land's End, the Surf, where a handful
of people emerge and disappear in the fog, not wanting to talk.
You went out for a cigarette and silence and never came back,
and I was left with a tartan scarf and your final mot juste:
Only those who love are not afraid to be alone. Whitehorse,
Vera Cruz, Yangzhou: you could be anywhere, anything--
pearl fisher, drag racer, lightning rod. I'd give you up if I could,
but I see a white gardenia reflected in the watchmaker's window
under his awning, and in the corner of my eye a woman zips up
her rose umbrella and goes downstairs to the underground rail.

First published in New England Review. Copyright ® Robert Thomas.

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This site designed and composed by Diane K. Martin. Technical and graphics assistance from Nathaniel Martin. Copyright © 2005 Diane K. Martin. All poems the properties of the original authors. Blackbird graphic scanned from a woodcut by Thomas Bewick (1752-1828), source: 1800 Woodcuts by Thomas Bewick and his School, Dover Publications, Inc. This site last updated: November 18, 2008