Three Poems

 by Robert Peake


A dollop of cream from your own
mother’s milk, seasoned with tears
from the first girl you kissed,
garnished with coarse-cut parsley,
served in the shell of a snail.

Lint from your best-loved old jumper
sprinkled with grains from your childhood
sandbox, placed on your luckiest penny,
soaked in rum and a roiling blue flame,
crackling with cinnamon gunpowder.

Wax shavings from your preschool crayons
to make the lips curl up at the edges,
nettles from the banks of the pollywog pond
to brand the tongue with slime’s fascination,
all arranged in a small favourite lunch pail.

Of course, for dessert, we have madeleines,
to dip in a tea made of vapour and dust,
sweet-smelling, like the home of your elderly aunt,
which dissolve upon contact and waking. Go on.
Have another. You will never be full.


“I Was Born to Small Fish.”

-from a mis-translated line by Pablo Neruda

They fill the stream with dashes,
clot in dark collections by the bank,
a clutch of minnows sprayed
into life, like torpedoes
from a pregnant submarine.

And I am born unto them,
child of the sardine, goldfish,
pollywog—whatever can swim
in a thimble, dodge change
flipped into a fountain
for luck.

I am not the son
of the marlin, the sturgeon—
the sunfish, around whom
jellyfish revolve like planets.
The smallest of fish
is sufficient to be my mother.

I am from this line of stream-
swimmers, gulf-swimmers, fish
at the mercy of eddies
and wakes, schooling together,
and bursting apart, confusion
and numbers our only defence,
this line, this arc—

hundreds flashing
through a shaft of light—
I call them “family” and
“comrades,” call them
my fish, small fish, birth-right.


Two Women in Heels Walk Briskly Toward the Train Platform

It is twenty-seven against forty-one,
ball-peen hammers on a shingled roof.
Let the stars rain down their spears
on our bald, uncovered heads. Cuckoo
clocks of the world, assemble and compare
notes. “Fall out!” says the sergeant
before the men cross the bridge,
and the mill-worker’s deafness, later
in life, sings on an angle-pitched note:
tinnitis, in excelsis Deo.
Seeds tumble down the rain stick.
Match heads bounce on a hardwood floor.
Beach-hut windows fend off sand-laced wind.
They are marching through the gates,
they are hammering at the doors, accumulation
of every polite rap, salesman’s tap,
the call to muster courage for the pitch.
This is the sound of braille read aloud,
the ice in your teeth, 21 guns at will,
unwrapping the bubble-packed parcel.
Let us observe a moment of loudness,
give this world a round of applause.

Read The Story Behind “Three Poems” by Robert Peake on our blog.

About Robert Peake

Robert Peake is an American poet living in England. His newest short collection is The Silence Teacher (Poetry Salzburg, 2013). His poems have appeared in North American Review, Poetry International, Rattle, and Magma Poetry. He writes about poetry and culture at The Huffington Post and at

Robert Peake

Robert Peake is online at