Tuesday Poem: The Breaks

Illustration image: despardes.com

To learn more about your new Kenmore washer, break the plastic seal.
—from the manufacturer’s instructions

I’ve a friend who says, “Treat anything mechanical
as if it’s just about to break.”
I’ve a feeling      broken-hearted
he’s talking about himself
in relation to his ex-wife,
but I don’t tell him that. She called me break the news
just before she left him. “Breaking up” was her phrase,
as if we were all broken promise still in grade school.
“I’m leaving,” she said, “For good.” I pictured him exactly
where I knew he was at the time—in mid-schuss
breakneck on a mogul-filled downhill in Vail.
He wouldn’t be back for two days, and had no idea
it would be to a broken home. And then,
no note, on the kitchen table or anywhere.
No red box on the wall: IN CASE OF EMERGENCY

Two weeks later we sat line break
in front of a ridiculous amount of beer.
I was trying, at that point, to explain to him
that humans didn’t invent weaving … breaking point
that it was an innovation of certain brightly colored,
long-beaked birds, and when we stumbled upon
the wonderful, twisted nests, we figured them out
by breaking them apart.
Something in him broke loose, I guess. I’d been talking
as if I could say anything groundbreaking
about love. In retrospect, he probably should’ve broke my nose,
but all he did was sit there, for the first time, slumped over
in a bar, and cry. “I looked everywhere,” he said,
“for a note.” Everywhere. He kept saying it. What’s the word?
What’s the word for one of those great big crashing waves?

by Kirk Robinson
from Rattle #35, Summer 2011

Kirk Robinson: “I’ve always loved poems—like David Clewell’s ‘A Heart for Patricia’—that take a single, well-worn idea and then run at it from angles until it’s new again. When a friend of mine spoke those words of advice about mechanical things, I happened to hear a decent line in my head. Then I sat down, and I made a break for it.”