Elizabeth Robinson

On Burglary (or what’s been taken away)

What is given, I clean carefully.

And what is taken away,

I struggle to remember.



All that is stolen remains selfish: variably audible to memory.

What I have cleaned, have washed up, I place carefully

away. To hide something is to prevent it from being stolen.

But then also to forget where it has been hidden.



It is hard some days keep washing, to get

out of bed and take a shower.




After a while, if you cease to bathe,

your hair adjusts to this condition

and no longer looks dirty.






Keeping is cleanliness,

and realizing all that has been stolen

helps to prove that theft

has its own taxonomical system.


Teleological. Dirtied teoleology.


We remember what we forgot was taken in order
to categorize its cost, of which the thing itself has no recollection.


To re-impose the cleanliness of order proves

memory as insurance

that will reimburse a portion of the loss.






Theft induces not only loss

but lostness.


I have lost my taxonomy, my soap and water, and my way.








Were we to rank them,

the losses of highest value are those that have come closest to the body—


hands, caresses, a voice, even

the gaze.

A smell now gone extinct.



Ironically, we would have to acknowledge that these, by their very proximity to the
body are the items that are most unclean.








(I do not know exactly where I am now staying.

Only that

the mockingbird obtrudes at 4 a.m. with its perfect memory for what it has

heard, though what it has stolen


has negative value because its memory is so impeccable.

That is, there are forms and forms

of reproduction.


I wake up to find tiny grains of black sand adhering to the sheets.)







I wanted back my eyeglasses and my address book

but also the belief that soaking in a tub of hot water would take away something that

I wanted taken away.








Politeness is a form of cleanliness that has very little efficacy.


I am too good at hiding what I do not want stolen and

my courtesy to myself remits nothing.


Apparently, there is no corresponding taxonomy of finding.









I would like the words back which have been impounded indefinitely

as evidence.


What I notice in the aftermath of all

that’s been taken away, like license, is exactly this pollution of memory.

How I am implicated in guilt of what I did not do. How I recall protecting the

thing by secreting it. What color,

I was asked, was the thing that was stolen, when

I had conscientiously bleached it. And the half

that was left behind lost value because it was no longer complete.