Robert Harper

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the poet

Robert Harper’s poems have appeared in The Interpreter’s House, Prole, Acumen, Ink Sweat & Tears, And Other Poems and elsewhere. He's also had work featured in anthologies such as Fathers and What Must Be Said, A New Manchester Alphabet, The Every Day Poet, An Anthology to Seamus Heaney and The Valley Press Anthology of Prose Poetry. Robert founded and edited the magazine Bare Fiction, and has recently launched online poetry magazine Disjointed.

the poems

An embarrassment
of poverty

After Michael Hoffman

00:00 / 01:09
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                        At  1pm you  sit  and  look at  the poem. Among the

                        other  things  you  should be doing, you drink water

                        to allay the sweat and  read, squint at, your midnight

                        endeavours,  a  tower  of  books leering like  an old

                        professor. You,  compelled,  or just desperate to let

                        the thoughts flow, lay on  your  side unable to sleep.

                        She,  right  there,  like  the painting you love and for

                        which a  light is always  on. A  thought  enters  your

                        head.  You  tried  too  hard,   yet   held  back   and,

                        subsequently, pushed  too  far forward. You wonder

                        if  the sleeping, the loss of  it, curled like a cat in an

                        empty box of paper, is what is up. You read it again.

                        Embarrassment  comes and  you thank  the gods for

                        your humility, ask of the page – How dare I  look at

                        you and think of poverty?

Obstacle

00:00 / 01:14
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                        A boy sits alone (a roundabout)

                        watching cars oblige as they

                        dutifully trust an indirect

                        route around the obstacle. He

                        considers himself ‘obstacle’,

                        traces his eyes via entrance

                        to exit and nods his head. Half

                        yes, half whatever appears on

                        the road around him—obstacle.


                        JCC 428H, Bangor 1970, Cortina

                        Mk III, yellow and chrome trim.


                        HFK 015E, Dudley 1967, the lost

                        Ford Zephyr, abandoned, a yard

                        monster. Dreams plagued with


                        red trucks, green buses, black

                        Austins to remind boy of time

                        before his own existence. Dad,

                        car, ahead, his birth. Obstacle.


                        What is he looking for behind

                        the seven inch sealed beam of

                        a Hillman Imp? A connection to

                        his beginning—an accidental

                        merging where 2 people, going

                        past obstacles, become stuck.

How do others make such

00:00 / 01:31
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            Forked tongues. Unsure how to proceed, I detach

            my arm, look inside the open flesh for morsels hiding

            beneath the skin, quivering before the opportunity


            to be plucked or nurtured in the between state of

            draughty window by a slavish boy who wishes for nothing

            but new worlds and the road right in front of him.


            The road, full of signs, made up symbols to delay

            the choosing of the path, the leaving of one, one side

            which will not be taken, will take time. So I remove


            my leg and look beneath the skin; surely hidden

            there is knowledge of the groove, how one hops

            in and out needling the unsung sound — like a shellac 78


            left in the heat of the sun to warp and throw you off

            the scent of music long lost; the jive and the rock,

            hard places rolling beneath your single step,


            out of reach of your one arm. I cannot see anyway

            so I pop out an eye, peel back the layers for clues —

            something observed but missed, known yet forgotten.


            It conjures nothing new, but I begin to understand the little boy

            whose appetite is itself ready to be swallowed whole.

Publishing credits

All poems: exclusive first publication by iamb