December 14, 2021

Robert Fernandez (USA) 1980

Robert Fernandez (USA)

Robert Fernandez was born in Hartford, Connecticut, and grew up in Miami. He is the author of the poetry volumes We Are Pharaoh, Pink Reef, and Scarecrow.

He is also co-translator of Azure, poems by
Stéphane Mallarmé in 2015. His poems have appeared in Hambone, Lana Turner, The New Republic, Poetry, A Public Space, Bennington Review, The Nation and elsewhere. He is the recipient of awards and fellowships from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, the Gertrude Stein Awards, the Poetry Society of America’s New American Poet Awards, and the Andrew W. Mellon foundation. He has been an editor for Cosa Nostra Editions and the PEN Poetry Series.
      He currently teaches poetry in Nebraska.


We Are Pharaoh (Ann Arbor, Michigan: Canarium Books, 2011); Pink Reef (Ann Arbor: Canarium Books 2013); Scarecrow (Middletown, Connecticut: Wesleyan University Press, 2015)

Tongue Out (Beginning with a Line by the Painter Francis Bacon)

I like the dog; it looks
As if it’s just lying there,

As though it’s had a really good run, exhausted,
And you see it with its tongue out…

And I was prone, exhausted,
As if I’d had a rug of sweat rolled out of me.

And I was prone and near dead,
On the razor’s lip of sleep,

As if a rug of gold thread,
Bought for half a million in a mall in Dubai,

Had been rolled out of me
Across a length of polished tile.

And I was exhausted, like a dog
That had been flattened, eyes squashed flat—

Flat as the huge, smashed toads
That scatter the roads in Florida.

I was exhausted,
As if I’d burned through my money,

As if I’d drunk deeply at the roulette wheel
And bathed in its multicolored fogs,

As if I’d sweated through my shirt
Next to the colossal

Stones of the casino fireplace.
I was exhausted,

As if Malory after a raid blood-shearing
Through coin and bleating sheep,

As if the lamprey
Had stood

Over my shoulder, reading

As if the pandemic had started
And I had eaten death,

White paste from a clay bowl,
For years.

I was exhausted,
Like a dog after a good run,

Flattened, laid flat,
Beside his master.

—Originally published in A Public Space


Let us live a long life
Among clothes lines and bats’ grasp,
Fleshy twig grip,
Or kites, how we love
Their—too false to say—
Their dance with nothing;
How we love, rather, their clarity
That falls, skin that dissolves.

Every image of transcendence
Comes in a white marble block
Within which a bat is fixed
Like Satan himself
At the bottom of Dis.

And our three bearded heads
Garble dead cacti,
Wrinkled worm and caramel
Wrapped in foil.

Hold. Begin again
Where your face
Is a shield.

There, you are like kites.
But it’s false to say
We are flat and fleet—;
We are, rather, red steaks
Falling into a pan
Under raw moonlight,
Whitest of moonlight
Behind which the void

Still. We are
The ark’s reeling tower.
And how I love the ancient sky,
Purple, god-soaked, of faceted
Silver and phosphorus white.
Nothing’s the pit
You expel from your stomach.
And the dia-
            mond, fleshy
Only in its negation
Of all flesh,
Slips from your mouth
Into the pan.

Speak. Eden,
Your rain
Is cut wrong—
The giraffes
Bend sideways for their meals
Of leaves and flowers;
The baboons
Shuttle their skulls
On their backs.

And the day is trees
wind smoke soil
grass rock shit
sickness death
animals animals

The day prints our eyes;
The press of type
Falls into the flesh;
Our eyes are
Tired of reading;
They are scarred.

Is a scar too,
A laughing slit of mouth
Lined with black, shining fruit.

The baboons stretch their jaws and sleep.

The rivers travel until they do not.

The insects grip, multiply, and descend.

We are fortunate if we find 
Some measure,
Because every day I see
A god bathing in the river,
Blood streaming from its mouth.

Let us
Split open
Our stomachs
With the unicorn’s

Let us
Spill warm
Platefulls of guts,
Pinkish things
Picked at.

Magisterial vultures,
Wings the size of children,
Extend themselves
Over pink plates.

O gods. Fall.
Fall still. Remember us.

That noon, highest point—
But a fork of little bone
Breaks from the dancer’s throat.

Still I love the beauty of these serpent colors.
And I love the dancers
With their naked feet.

And I love
The dancers
Who love the light,
Who unfold the light into the light,
Who bring the light to itself in witness.

—Originally published in THERMOS

For a brief introduction to his work by Robyn Schiff and a selection of poems, go here:

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