A Slim Volume Taken Into the Provinces

I have to leave early in the dark

and hungry to avoid

crossing the snow as the noon


burns the crust

into an un-servable lake

slush instead of the crisp bridge


that would be in order

to get me over the ridge


My journal is already laundered clean

of my words      and my instructions

have dissolved


into a white mash       a washed bone

ball         rolled into itself

of all I have in the world       in my pocket



The ink is thin the paper is poor

my eyes balance on the pale

words around which a stream


flows     almost erasing

the way across

the idea


Shadows         the black flowers

of the light self

-sowing through the trees


dark gardens        of midnight

for the gray-white morning

hour        of blindness


in print miles before I am

to arrive        here


To approach the waiting milestone

dims whatever else of its lantern

‘til only the placed light there is on me.


In this light       barely      but used to it

I can make out the staggered columns of my account

as if back through weren’t the real distance:


the thin chest flag pinned on by each ridge

the titled introduction taking your coat each storm.



My letters and ribbons have been the natural—

strengths on their way to the more—

natural weaknesses—         and loss.        yet—


I wonder where I thought I was going—

to ve done what you must pass

examinations for before I took any.

Ed Roberson, "A Slim Volume Taken into the Provinces" from To See the Earth Before the End of the World. Copyright © 2010 by Ed Roberson.  Reprinted by permission of Wesleyan University Press.
Source: To See the Earth Before the End of the World (Wesleyan University Press, 2010)
More Poems by Ed Roberson