Robert Peake is one of the poets I asked to be part of the EKPHRASIS event responding to the Sensing Spaces exhibition at the Royal Academy in March. I heard him read Still Life with Bougainvillea which was commended in the Troubadour International Poetry Prize 2013 and after getting home from the event I did some digging around to read more of his stuff. He’s kindly sent the two poems below and I’ve included links to various things on his site. In case you’re not quite sure, yes he is that “Transatlantic poet-guy”, as someone I know once called him (I think she might have prefaced it with … “Oh WOW he’s… ).
It is hardly there at all,
this feather-rain, suffusing
the air with casual descent
pooling in crevices of husk
and trickling down the yellow stem,
dampening the topsoil sponge.
It is the antidote to drought, but also
to floods of Biblical scale, this
Providence and proof of tenderness–
each droplet a tiny silver dollar
skating the side of a piggybank,
reclaiming the mortgaged barn.
How strange to discover it here,
leashing an eager Retriever for his
pre-dawn hike through a London park,
four thousand miles and an ocean away
from where the saying first took root
in your keen farm-girl’s mind.
Strange how what is hardly there
is there all the more for its gentleness,
dampening the head of your blonde companion,
who, when you unclip his collar, races
as fast as ever through clay and mud
toward doves he will never catch.
The neighbour dressed in misery still won’t
return your smile, unaware he’s breathing
money-mist, shaking gold-dust from his hair.
So you walk with this secret knowledge,
burning like a gas lamp inside, while all around
the land is soaking, gently, soaking.
(First appeared in Harpur Palate)
A tune is playing in the tambourine streets.
In the streets, they shake out a jingling song.
Since you left, the only lyrics I hear are “gone.”
The people on the bus wear their faces like masks.
The mask-faced bus people wear smiles like a shield.
Without you, now I know how that armour feels.
Underground, the trains are galloping along.
The train humps along the track somewhere deep down.
Since you’re gone, “goodbye” is my favourite sound.
On the pavement, people cluster waiting to cross.
Clumping like a school of fishes, watching for green.
I stand there in your absence, not wanting to be seen.
Since you left, all the songs say “long gone.”
And without you, now I know how a soldier feels.
When that train leaves, “goodbye” is all I hear.
I am nowhere, and you are everywhere, a song.
(First appeared in South Bank Poetry)
Robert Peake is an American poet living in England. His newest short collection is The Silence Teacher (Poetry Salzburg, 2013). His previous short collection was Human Shade (Lost Horse Press, 2011). His full-length collection The Knowledge is expected in early 2015 from Nine Arches Press.
Robert’s poems have received commendations in the Rattle Poetry Prize, the Atlantic Monthly Student Writing Contest, the 2007 James Hearst Poetry Prize, the 2009 Indiana Review Poetry Prize, the 2013 Troubadour International Poetry Prize and three Pushcart Prize nominations, and was long-listed for the UK National Poetry Competition. He created the Transatlantic Poetry on Air reading series to bring poets from both sides of the Atlantic together for live online poetry readings.