How to Judge

By Lisa Robertson b. 1961 Lisa Robertson
To those whose city is taken give glass
pockets. To those whose quiver gapes give queens
and pace their limbs with flutes, ropes, cups of soft
juice. To those whose threshold vacillates give
that bruise the dust astonished. To falling
heroes give raucous sibyls’ polished knees.
To those who sip nectar give teeth. And if
they still sip nectar—give green chips of wood.
To swimmers give clocks or rank their hearts
among new satellites as you would
Garbo’s skint lip. To scholars, give dovecotes
to virgins, targets. Justice has nothing on them.
Virgil, sweetheart, even pretty fops need
justice. If they think not let creditors
flank them and watch their vigour quickly flag.
To exiled brides give tiny knives and beads
of mercury then rob them of prudence
for prudence is defunct. To those who fist
clouds, give powder. And if their sullen
wallets flap, give nothing at all. Still
I have not addressed lambent fops
swathed in honey, the stuttering moon
Martyrs, Spartans, Sirens, Mumblers, Pawns
Ventriloquists—or your sweet ego
 
The Beloved Ego in the plummy light
is you. When I see you in that light
I desire all that has been kept from me
etcetera. For you. Since your rough shirt
reminds me of the first grass
pressing my hips and seeds heads
fringing the sky and the sky
swaying lightly to your scraped
breath, since I hear
panicked, my sister calling
since the gold leaves have all
been lost, and you are at least
several and variegated
I toss this slight thread back
 
The beloved ego on cold marble
blurs inscription. Hey Virgil
I think your clocked ardour is stuck
in the blue vein on my wrist. It stops
all judgement

Lisa Robertson, "How to Judge" from Debbie: An Epic. Copyright © 1997 by Lisa Robertson.  Reprinted by permission of New Star Books.

Source: Debbie: An Epic (New Star Books, 1997)

Discover this poem’s context and related poetry, articles, and media.

Poet Lisa Robertson b. 1961

POET’S REGION Canada

Subjects Living, Time & Brevity, Arts & Sciences, Poetry & Poets, Social Commentaries, Cities & Urban Life, History & Politics, Mythology & Folklore, Greek & Roman Mythology

Poetic Terms Epic

 Lisa  Robertson

Biography

Poet Lisa Robertson was born in Toronto in 1961. She lived for many years in Vancouver, where she studied at Simon Fraser University, ran an independent bookstore, and was a collective member of the Kootenay School of Writing, a writer-run center for writing, publishing, and scholarship. While in Vancouver, Robertson was also involved in Artspeak Gallery, an alternative gallery that connects the visual arts and writing; she is . . .

Continue reading this biography

Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Living, Time & Brevity, Arts & Sciences, Poetry & Poets, Social Commentaries, Cities & Urban Life, History & Politics, Mythology & Folklore, Greek & Roman Mythology

POET’S REGION Canada

Poetic Terms Epic

Report a problem with this poem

Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

This poem has learning resources.

This poem is good for children.

This poem has related video.

This poem has related audio.