On the Sound

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Caves, throttles, motorcyclists, rhyming, inner ear, the Northern Pacific, elegiac intervals, bright red geraniums, neighborly glances & Mr. Loose and Unnecessary.


Goes away a long time

Comes back to think of it

The sky is how deep

Sun through Doug fir

Open up the throttle a little


This kind of rhyming goes back to the cave

Today only teenage girls can crawl through

Big rigs on the roads carrying nearly everything

Guy drags boxes on dolly down ramp

Early morning delivery


Smooth passage through the inner ear

Time with the lights on

Indolent instants on the boat of Ra

Hopping across islands in the Sound

Hear the mighty engine’s roar


Beginnings are numberless

An end leaves one gasping for air

You don’t have to do this

But you can’t do anything else

The occasional car, stops and turns


Families arrive from parts elsewhere

Science nudges the unknown

Two things from which men must avert their gaze

Death and the face of the sun

Day’s first erasure ripples the morning surface


They are looking for a cup of coffee

The flag flutters in a light breeze

All this is true but still

Meaning ekes out a living

The birds are more than happy to oblige


The voice has scales the locals know by ear

When you get to the harbor you are there

In the heat of the day

Time is something unexpected

Like a motorcyclist removing her helmet



Sticking up out of the water

Covered in fir, hemlock, cedar and pine

These islands

Wake with the sun

Where the continent breaks

Against the Northern Pacific

Without a word


Wind in the branches

The feel of it on the face

Elegaic intervals

Between sounds

Light on porch rails

Casting shadows

Even in advance


A landscape of calls

Very little to go on

As if waiting for a train of thought

Inner and outer realms


If only for a moment

First boat out into the water




Bright red geraniums

A wake up call

For Mr. Loose and Unnecessary


Gather strength in batches

The idea goes one way

Awake, a walk in a field


Sessions in space

Kick off the covers

Neighborly glances


Situate yourself

For the ride across the sky

Sometimes it’s chilly


Boats tied up

To the dock

Like so many parenthetical asides


She and her dog

Down the road

Before breakfast


Leaves on the vine

The breeze makes quiver

Are models of flexibility


Let nothing happen for a while

And surely it will

Despite your best efforts


The thinking is

Clouds gather to west

A combination of elements


Near miss offshoot

Arrange the letters

A fortune in shipbuilding


The matter at hand

Neither here nor there

Compared to making a living


Imagine a concert

Convened every morning

Shorebirds of the Pacific rim


Plenty of energy

The turn to luggage

Time to pull up stakes


And there you have it

To have and to have not

Some like it hot


People moving about

You big lug

A sign of perpetual vacancy


Just let yourself in

Chill waters of delight

Family members on the pier


A light feeling of expectation

Stick to the plan

A breath of fresh air



Words in place of fingers

Sky in place of heart

Sound in place of memory

Whales in place of harmonicas

Liberals in place of precipices

Door in place of tree

Sensuality in place of remuneration

Number in place of color

Eyes in place of sea hawks

September in place of time


Inside the cave

Outside the bar

Whenever it suits you

Unless there is a fire

Until the last minute

Without being aware

Because of the noise

Under the circumstances

On top of the fridge

By the side of the road


Ceremonial embouchure

Leaseway tires

Probabilistic septuagenarians

Semi-automatic doubt

Consensual sacrifice

Inter-island plasticity

Roadside realism

Drowsy blandishments

Tonal arrival

Misbegotten hallelujah


Art is the last refuge of polygamists

Rail transport is the badminton of hungry ghosts

Sensitivity is the germ warfare of electric guitars

Language is the roulette of pacifism

Cinema is the cliff face of adolescence

Melancholy is the nasturtium of time

Outer space is the typewriter of misapprehension

Ostentation is the oatmeal of fellowship

Everyday life is the climate change of introspection

Horticulture is the guardian angel of sex



As darkness falls in the mountains

A dim glimmer of history slips the mind

Fog in the crotch between rises

Other side of the lake


Once a self-made man

Who started from scratch

Became governor

Then a shipbuilding empire

When the doctors warned he’d die of stress

He bought a large parcel on Orcas Island

Moved there with his family

Lived another 25 years

Ceding the land to the state

For use by the public

Building roads and bridges himself

When state funds proved inadequate

Until finally the National Park Service came through

Today you can stand at the top

A limestone tower at the summit

With a view of Mount Baker across the sound


Another a pioneering loner

Farmed on Whidbey Island

Commuted by boat to Port Townsend

Where he was postmaster general

Was killed and beheaded by Indians

In proxy retaliation

For the murder by whites of a tribal chief


Now the lake is almost entirely white

Fog reflected in its rain dimpled surface

Dark white

Or what you might call silver

Before the deep green shadows of the mountainsides



It’s the 40s again

Welcome back

Jitterbug clarinet mornings

Snappy vocalese

Up ‘n’ at ‘em attitude

A slap on the backside of fate

Off we go

Into the wild blue yonder

Until the dining room fills

With decades before and since


Good night Mrs. Calabash wherever you are

The snap from the fireplace

Here is where you lodge your complaints

One line at a time

The way a drawing takes shape

The shapes of mountains

Clouds and a lake

Wind moving light on the surface

Of a life

Which brings us to where we sit


Nestled between peaks

Ferns all about and tall firs covered in moss

Such are the pleasures of description

A kind of neutrality like Switzerland

That allows us to be with the immediate environment

And also not

Because busy making notes

On mirrors for others to read later

Okay kids let’s go

Leaving so soon?


That’s great news because time is ticking away

Footsteps behind me

A day of not drinking

Trails up into the interior

Laughter from up the way

And that casual, rascally counter tempo

That sings its way through our capillaries

For generations

Even after the departure

Of the vintage auto rally




Silent forms

Break into fugitive night

The caper drama

Squeezing between raindrops

A city is as its citizens make it

At street level

Or up in the air


Traffic patterns

A natural bridge

Icons of the light rail system

Connecting ramen

To Latin jazz

Where feet do the walking

And talk is entirely free


One step beyond anticipation

What happens matters

It shakes the whole body

Out of habit

And into intensity

One passionate doorway

Some special ground floor


Kit Robinson was born in Evanston, Illinois, grew up in Cincinnati, went to Yale, and has lived in the San Francisco Bay Area ever since. He is the author of Marine Layer (BlazeVOX), Determination (Cuneiform), The Messianic Trees: Selected Poems, 1976-2003 (Adventures in Poetry), and 20 other books of poetry. His collaboration with Ted Greenwald, A Mammal of Style (Roof) was named among “the best poetry of 2014” by the Chicago Tribune. He lives in Berkeley, California, and works as a freelance marketing writer in the technology industry.

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