Stan Sanvel Rubin / Poetry / Spring, 2017




Still Life with Omelet

The education of the heart begins at breakfast
in an empty room, with a frying pan
still smoking from overheated oil,
eggshells littering the stovetop.
No one shares the omelet, though
the bits of mushrooms are really good
cooked that way, crisp, dark, nearly burnt.

A Short Guide to Mistakes

You won’t know when it happens,
but you will know
that they know.

The best sign you’ve
done it again is that they
pretend to ignore you.

It reminds you of the way
you try to ignore yourself
when you pass a mirror,

like a stranger at a station
lost among strangers he can’t
really trust. This is a platform

of strangers. How can you tell
where anyone is going?
How can you know for sure

who is innocent, who is waiting
for you to turn your back?
The best sign you’ll do it again

is when they wait for it.

A Short Guide to Terror

The first thing to understand is,
it doesn’t matter what you did,
the accounting will be terrible,

as in the old dream
which, this time,
won’t end in daylight.

You stand before nameless judges,
head bent in a hood of shadows,
eyes averted, looking for escape

until you see a shape move
along the edges of the floor
then suddenly turn toward you.

You watch it coming,
an insect, a large one, dark
as the underside of a snake,

crawling toward your ankles.
It won’t stop at your ankles.
What it wants is familiar as skin.

The worst part is, you put it there.

A Short Guide to Innocence

This is not an illusion,
but a necessary face
to be perfected.

Let it spread over your lips
like a slow smile, your eyes
unmoving, narrowed

as if considering the possibility
that someone might have hurt someone,
that someone might have caused

someone pain. But you don’t know
who or when or how. You won’t
show them what you know.

You’re like a card player
with a special trick.
He keeps one up his sleeve, one

in a back pocket no one knows he has.
If they knew, they’d kill him.
He keeps it there until he needs it.

That’s the first rule.

Notes on Suffering

Pain and suffering are different
the way birds that fly into the night
and the night are different.

These are distinct states of being,
like the one who leaves and the one who is left,
even though it’s something they do together.

First someone walks to the door and opens it.
Then the other fails to follow.
So the door is closed.

Everything is defined by what it isn’t.
For instance, the one who walks out the door
is not the one who remains inside.

The one who stands inside
stands with suffering no one witnesses.
Can we believe him?


Stan Sanvel Rubin’s work has appeared most recently in Poetry Northwest, The National Poetry Review, and The Laurel Review. His fourth full-length collection, There. Here., was published by Lost Horse Press  (2013). He lives on the Olympic Peninsula of Washington state.


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