Michael Robins on "Pseudonymously Yours"

Pseudonymously Yours

We were lustered, nightfall elusive
of description. Fortune shifted red

pastures to green, my platonic eyes
traversing hers in a bathroom mirror.

I can't retrieve her name for colors
consume the tall, bleached dwelling

where she floated angelic at the sink,
akin & high. We held to each other.

Strangers, drained, our poise wasted
trying toothsome words for their size.

I was shoulder, my world advocating
dimness. Mostly my friends petered

briefly, drinking more from the river
than its ineffable flood would allow.

Then my girlfriend slept with another
boy. I was pedaled late, & even later

we spent scores on that roof to make
amends. My blue bicycle everywhere.

On "Pseudonymously Yours"

In April 2010, I write and exchange a daily poem with Adam Clay. Often the poems are quick and sent before the day's responsibilities; other days are fits and starts, culminating in an email sent minutes before midnight. Weeks are no luxury, nor the shaping of multiple drafts. April spills forward and poetry becomes a serious addiction.

"How would you feel," I type Adam, "about continuing this through May?"

"Let's continue, yes," he replies.

And a month later, on the final day of May: "What about tomorrow?"

Some habits hold tighter than others. One morning I open Heather Christle's The Difficult Farm: "The important thing's to demonstrate / that you do, as a human, have adequate desires, but to smudge it all enough // to indicate only the general area and not the over-cathected dot."

I'm struck by the act of smudging, specifically as it relates to obfuscation in my own writing. A goal for that day's poem: try not to smudge too much. The embryo of "Pseudonymously Yours" forms in twenty minutes and drops into the sent folder on May 26th at 9:15 AM.


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"Pseudonymously Yours" believes we know a secret thing or two, focusing a camera on murals or the railroad tracks leading far from Eugene, Oregon. We stumble Pioneer Cemetery, hold a stranger's upright stone, even sob from our tangle of wonder and despair. We're cautioned against carrying the weight as our fathers do, vision filling red they get so angry. We're softer in that respect, but our drinking is regular & heavy.

The morning Allen Ginsberg's death arrives on the answering machine, we walk dazed, hung-over, happen upon a friend who once recited "Footnote to Howl" ("Holy! Holy! Holy!") in its entirety. Death leaves the mouth, collapses everywhere and so too the air as we sit together at the edge of a pond no longer on the maps. We stay an hour. We stay maybe longer. There the water and occasional birds, but what happens then?

Our memory erases, dubs over or gets replaced by weekends two hours north in Portland. We drink last night's beer, meet old friends for untold pitchers Sunday afternoon before merging onto the interstate. In our best moments, we opt instead to stay all night and leave early Monday morning. Too often we stop thirty minutes later for a six-pack, throw the empties one by one as we speed through the darkness south.

The genesis of the poem and so the poet. Both of us should be dead.

"Secrets of Getting Laid" and later "The Reluctant Virgin," the title becomes "Pseudonymously Yours" in 2015. All but the final sentence is abandoned or altered in the five years that follow the original draft. Vanished is the appearance of the waterfall, a trellis, the short utterance: "We were factual."

In the poem we are anything but factual, substances heightening or dulling our unnamed grief. We weave left and right up a long flight of stairs. We bump through open doorways and spaces. There, the lit woman faces the sink, and its mirror lets our eyes meet while the particular shade of the walls and the room itself dissolve. We hold that moment but a minute, maybe longer, in the otherwise rushing world. We hold it even now.

"Pseudonymously Yours" anticipates the friends we haven't met, those we know, and someone we never did. Its couplets applaud the cast of companions, acquaintances, even the multiplying "me" over a few short years. We are he and she and you, all of us angelic (we believe) in visions of a moon floating between clouds that each break shore.

"Pseudonymously Yours" confesses the underlying joy reflected in the ordinary. "Pseudonymously Yours" salutes our blue bicycles, the music of our pedaling before we push near the top of the Willamette Valley, turn around and let go.




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