Robert van Vliet



      leaping without understanding, it is not
a rabbit, but very like one, another
planet, and we are full 

      of blood, only the vertigo
of science could make her
giggle with awe, not since god 

      the father burned it all
down, leaving nothing,
nothing, nothing, 

      only the moon is
a planet, full
of blood 



Empty Box

What do we
leave unfinished? And
where do we 

keep our unfinished
thoughts? What you
don’t say is 

what they will
guess—and guess
wrong. Like an
empty box stuck 

inside itself, wandering
the halls of
its own echoes.



From This Height

I think everything
has an

everything needs
one But from 

this height either
everything or

terrifying And
how will anyone 

ever know the
difference or

else Because
even words aren’t 

always words Something
resembling panic

collapse Sunset
from the gallows



The Far Country 

A silo rises
                        above the drowning green
            of the enraptured fields.
Boxelders have branched
                        over the rumpled ground
            and shrug beside
the river. The
            is silent
under the creaking
                        bridge, so full
            of night
even in the noonday bulge.
                        The river,
            flowing sideways
between its banks.
                        These banks, falling
into themselves, into
                        the river.
            And all of this,
here in the gross sunlit world,
                        beneath the domed and carapace sky,
            amounts to secret
knowledge, secret
                        knowing, knowing
            which knows itself.
The world is turned in
                        on itself, as the sun
            is born secretly of the earth.
                        by the leaves, sunlight
            crawls from the soil and flutters
up into the sky. And
                        we are at home here. God
            is in the far country.
We hold our stories close. We
                        do not need god’s special
            sight. It is enough
that cloud and wind
                        caress us, tree and
            mountain hold us,
sky and wisdom birth
                        us in the yellow
            stretches of
our creation.



Sleeping on a Map

You asked me:
“What’s a day
made of?” And
I said: “Lanterns
and sparrows, femurs
and ivy, traffic
whispering of mulch
and black ferns,
bricks filled with
oceans, sunsets flattened
and stacked high
into tipsy mountains.” 

You said: “Such
small creatures, mute
in the fluency
of their being.
Feeling forward softly
as shale settled
on them like
drizzle, embracing them.
A spiral stair
erasing everything and
remembering everything else.”

I said: “Without
expectations, we could
be patient forever,
like that sparkle
shaved from the
glacier, stacked on
the roadside, tipped
sideways, buckled like
wet books we
will never read.” 

Then you asked:
“But what about
scale? Spiking like
tides, swerving like
drumlins, shrinking from
its own comparisons?
Is there really
no distance between
stride and gaze,
pulse and solstice,
sunshowers and cratons?” 

I asked: “Remember
that wavering moment?
how we are
dizzy one second
then something snaps
itself back with
the clarity of
disorientation, when north
is left and
sunrise is down?” 

You said: “Yes!
It is like
clinging to the
topologies of want,
or like the
legend of clarity
by the statute
mile.” You paused.
“Or like a
flying dream,” you
added. “How we
can see so
far, the cold
air over our
back, clean as
the parched suburbs
and stony farmlands.” 

I said: “But
every question I
don’t ask, ash
replies in red,
with so many
pale fingers in
rows. A pilgrimage
begins with one
step and ends
with the same
step undone. Did
we ever leave?” 

You said: “It
is like waking
up in someone
else’s bed, or
crossing someone else’s
border, or walking
someone else’s road.
Marking what’s missing,
erasing what’s there,
unable to fold
it back the
way it was.”



Robert van Vliet’s poetry has appeared in The Sixth Chamber Review, Autumn Sky Poetry Daily, Wine Cellar Press, Otoliths, Guesthouse, and elsewhere. He is the author of the chapbook This Folded Path (above/ground press 2023). His debut book of poetry, Vessels, is forthcoming from Unsolicited Press in December, 2024. He lives in St Paul, Minnesota, with his wife, Ana.