“Genesis” by Nicole Robinson

Image first published in Rolling Stone, used here courtesy of Victor Juhasz, artist


Among the trash and television when
the eleven o’clock news shuffled the Gulf war home
between the smiles of broadcasters, a little moment
gunned back: my mother threw chairs, not bombs, not bullets.
Luck gave in like a levy breaking, light creeping in. Her screams
became a current I could ride on the linoleum floor
of that apartment. The asphalt of the parking lot
looked different in day, then night was harder,
harder still was imagining a desert storm, all the people
on the screen uprooted, so easily muted.


It’s as simple as getting lost
in sky, or tremors of water; it’s all language
spilling. Time kept moving, kept its frame
inside seconds. One war ended.
Others would begin. At thirteen
I moved in with a new family. Silence still
shreds silence, the inside of an answer
I almost understand. How do I rip apart
that sky, climb into memory? It’s easy.
Go to the water, find a shell or a cold
stone with a hole in it. Everything leaks through.
But I will not say it is easy to hold.


Some say before us there was just
earth, vegetation, mangos growing, then
dropping, and carrots digging
inside land. Almost like history
I keep promises to myself silent.


You can measure things
through seasons. Staple a day
to the sun, a menstrual cycle
to the moon. Eventually
days turn to years
and years turn right back
to you. Memory is black, and truth:
the purple cracks inside.


First the sea creatures: everything you cannot
see but know when one brushes your leg
it’s there, sculpted like war,
like 1995 when the U.S. bombed Bosnia
without saying much but its name:
Operation Deliberate Force. I know
hands can open softly like a shell casing,
then fingers send bullets speeding.
Swim in any body of water. You will feel held
like birds who rely on sky, wind patterns that map out
migration. In moments when I’m less human I understand.


I built a shrine of stones and shells on my towel, later
watched a bug attempt to burrow there, confused
without knowing. Always we lose the beginnings.
Belonging blurred into the mess of longing.
An eagle over Lake Erie with a fish in his talons
was hungry. We’re all hungry, and I often forget
we’re all forgetting. Even after
the water doesn’t believe in the shore, or doesn’t
not believe in the shore, it lips up and rolls back
and repeats the same reeling motion. If I could
believe in something I’d believe in the shell casing
opened like a flower on the shore.


There is water, land, and sky. On the plane
I cannot see what’s ahead of me.
The window is too small.
There is no end, just a runway
and then, sky shifting. One moment
it’s clouds, a little light, horizon holding
its colors tight, then it becomes land, perfectly
straight roads lit up, veins to tap, another
cluster of lights, mapped scars to examine.




Nicole Robinson is the Program and Outreach Coordinator for the Wick Poetry Center at Kent State University. She is the author of the chapbook The Slop of Giving In, The Melt of Letting Go. She received her MFA in poetry from Ashland University, and currently lives in Kent, Ohio with her partner, Deb, and their greyhound, Bill.

Read an interview with Nicole here.