The first time I think I saw Robinson?

I’d have to have been leaving Yucaipa.

He was on an old bike, a rusted, duct-

taped contraption I imagine must’ve

squeaked and rattled from a loose chain or dust

in the brakes… but I keep the music up

when I drive, so I can’t re-place the sound,

I can’t say there was a clatter-and-drag,

whether it proceeded him, or enshrined

him like some moving castle of music;

Robinson Lonewolf, can you see him? the mad conductor,

a gypsy percussive, orchestrating

a synchronized cloud of ratcheting ticks.

No, I didn’t see his face. Why d’you ask?


–What do I say of him being faceless?

I can say I’m pretty sure it was him.

I know you know the trick with car mirrors.


The second time? Years later. I was in Red Rock country,

north of Vegas, just off the 15. I passed a sign that read:

Valley of Fire, and, Lake Mead and I swear I saw

Robinson leaned against it just like that cowboy’s

silhouette you hit in  Laughlin.

The neon one on the border of Nevada

and California—

He raised his arm too,

dipped his hat brim like that as I passed him.


–I saw stubble on his jaw, a chain

at his throat and half a smile of white teeth.

No. No bags with him.


–He must’ve been headed north to—

seemed he was hitching my side of the road.


Significance of seeing Robinson?

Stupid question. Like, what color’s the air?

Who cares. I just see him when I see him.


Yeah. That was a bad one. Two years locked up,

San Bernardino County Detention.


No. He wasn’t. I drove the car alone.


Then it must’ve been Orange County, at a light.

Yeah it was late, just past the industrial part of town,

you know, where that factory sends those plumes

into the sky and that new hotel offsets ‘em

like a Breughel painting? Hunting-

ton Beach Boulevard, off the PCH?


–I don’t know. I think he was on deck or

in one of those drum circles that spring up

‘organically,’ you know? I saw a crowd

piled up around him…

Think of Robinson

with one of those little monkeys that begs

for dollars and change! How funny that’d be.

Yeah, I know why I’m here. You sure you do?


No. I haven’t seen him in Yucaipa

for years. Since he was what, eighteen? Nineteen?

–I heard he left one night, without goodbye

to anyone, not even his sisters.


Questions he left behind? Fuck, I‘d say so.


–What would I ask him if he were right here?

I’d ask him, was it easy to flip kids

from weed to oxy to rock? Did he care?

I’d ask him if he remembered that blonde

and her little RX; I’d tell him she’s

been in and out of rehab seven times.

She told me he took her virginity,

that he used to come take her out dancing.

I’d tell him how she gets her money now.

I’d ask him about Ronny and Jordan.

I’d ask if he went to the funerals;

if he saw his old friends still shooting up—


–If he was right here, next to me? I’d ask,

how many lives were ruined, Robinson?

I know everyone here would’ve done the same thing, but

I’d ask him, the day you opened your dispensary: d’you stay

and watch your product curl and smoke through their colored pipes?

How many seconds before you went for it? Before

you undid the lock, rolled up the metal shutters

on your beach front store, and declared yourself a Doctor?

They say-

you’re abroad, legal, like Bugsy Siegel.

So the Academy knows you then, huh?

D’you leave your blue card in their glass bowl?

Who dances for you now, Mister Ivy League?

I wonder, those high-class girls know where you’re from?

They know what you helped us with?

About this ghost town you left behind?

–But then, you know what? I’d ask him about

his world, and the places he’s seen. So he

got out like that, shady as the Bodhi.

What about it? I’d’ve done the same thing.

–I’d tell him though, once you get gone from here,

you better stay gone, you know, because

after it’s all chalked up, motherfucker ­­­­­

you still came outta here. You’re still one of ours.

You got a debt to this city and people here who’ll collect.

Suited up, lawyered up; you’ll always be one of us, body and soul.

No. No matter

what you become or where you go, you’re ours,

forever and always—



is a graduate of the University of East Anglia. He currently teaches in Bangkok where he lives with his family.



May 2012


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