Poetry from Kim Roberts
followed by Q&A
Sleep is one-sixtieth of death.
I lay down on my back,
clasp my hands to my chest.
Dream is one-sixtieth of prophecy.
I can summon anyone in dreams,
and I can travel on ice,
and jump rivers of fire.
Fire is one-sixtieth of hell.
Even a small taste of grief
is plenty, and will suffice.
Honey is one-sixtieth of manna.
A sip of sweetness
expands upon our tongues,
expands to tempt our days.
Shabbat is one-sixtieth of the World to Come.
On the seventh day, I’ll take my rest.
Come, lie down beside me under lilacs
and palm to palm, let our fingers weave.
I was never good at math
but I understood
the heavy burden
when a number was left over:
you had to carry it,
the weight bending your frame
until your whole body formed
a less-than sign.
Solve for X
Two trains leave Omaha at the same time.
The first train reaches Chicago
following the straight path of desire.
The second train breaks down two hours
outside of Denver, and after an unconscionable delay
in which a subset of passengers, subset C,
curses the breakdown of Amtrak and civilization itself,
they are transferred to a newer train,
and soon the greatest human factor can be found
helping one another with their baggage,
sharing snacks, telling their own variables.
This is the way with any equation: the first train
represents some ideal solution. But the second train—ah—
the second train is the polynomial of the shared world.
Kim Roberts is the author of three books of poems, most recently Animal Magnetism, winner of the Pearl Poetry Prize (Pearl Editions, 2011). In 2000, she founded the online journal Beltway Poetry Quarterly. She edited the anthology Full Moon on K Street: Poems About Washington, DC (Plan B, 2010), and wrote the nonfiction chapbook Lip Smack: A History of Spoken Word Poetry in DC (Beltway Books, 2010). Roberts is the recipient of grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the DC Commission on the Arts, and the Humanities Council of Washington. She has been awarded writers’ residencies from twelve artist colonies. Her website: http://www.kimroberts.org
Q: Discuss your process as a poet, what sparks a poem and how you work it through to completion (or abandonment.)
A: I tend to be fairly prolific, but most of what I write ends up never becoming a finished poem—so part of my process is throwing things out. Of course, nothing ever gets completely thrown away, and many ideas or images in failed poems come back to work their way into new poems. What usually sparks a new poem for me is reading or looking at art or architecture. I read ravenously and widely—history, art history, novels, poems. And I go to a lot of museums and historic sites.
Q: What did you collect as a child—rocks, insects, stamps? —and why?
A: I collected several things as a child, and continue to collect as an adult. I think anything pleasing is more pleasing in multiples. I also think there’s some weird psychological component to the urge to collect—as if we could better control the uncontrollable world by saving parts and sorting them into categories. I am fascinated with obsessive behavior.
Q: If you were creating a recipe for manna, what ingredients would you use?
A: I’m not sure, but it would have to include artichokes. Other stuff with artichokes.