Distanced: Robert Lashley

Editor Sam Preminger, Poetry, June 6th, 2020




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The Proud Boy Cop At Freight House Square

What blind God promised, his Caesar delivered
in codes, torches, and guttings that skew
toward oblivion’s convex mirrors.
His Christ is a two-headed hydra that spews
blood, the deluded mistake for angel dusts.
His ropes mistakenly fit as robes
in Puritan troll city sweeps,
his solution for gentrified soils,
his dream of Eden, with a paved over past
and a north star’s too distant sliver.

The hill is not the ladder of divine ascent,
it is the precinct where this bike cop roams.
Ladders and potholes are impostors
in the designed shadows of renewal.
The blue guard imagines only he can imagine
the means and ways to your end.

But where are his black heralds?
Your body that he calls on won’t hide him.
Your blood that he calls, as folks run to their rocks
blurs not slave and free, but his rose cheeks.
His set trips, bends, but can never break.
Our shared bones, bonds and interred uniforms
blind gods deemed expendable
and his Caesar made perversely new.
            “You and I, blood, are both down by that river
            I’ll go, yes, but then they’ll get you.”



Storefront Preacher Man’s Last Testament, 11th and Commerce

What is a camel to a donkey
to the defrocked eye.
What is a needle to a bottle
in artisanal streets,
that adapt hard to the resignations of winter.
Its binaries of color mask and accompany,
but defy invisible ice pews.

At his sermon on the frost, people move around him,
kindreds who cannot wait
for frozen altars
and the stretching of burnt blue-black hand
for something to carry him,
for a ladder to roll with the fallen sky,
for a golden stair to bless his sacrifice
of a dream colored boy and his nature.

Unions and successions dissipated in death,
reappear as metaphors in his tongues,
reappear as the countenance of dead lambs
on uphill buses
that vanish when vehicles are gone,
that vanish with the harbor sounds light break
as city lights stop their constellations,
as last turtledoves below old new lamps
make their wobbly transits.
Winter birds and buzzards, infirmed and aged
make their wobbly transits.
The last standing deacon could not find his wings
so he lowered his hands in the snow.



Hillside Terrace Memorial Commencement Poem

The double Dutch crew runs in the late day.
They kick it and take off briskly.
They elude the potholes in the changing same
of this amazon suburban trap.

In the morning, when we rise.

They fly past upturned and upturned lands.
They fly as the soil is flexed from the hill
where the adults left are men,
the men left are boys
and the children were already dead
before new buildings got sided.

In the morning, when we rise.

They fly past the block’s starless air.
They fly as the men set trip and fall
below shadows of stone crosses.
Below the road is a mirage of the riverbanks
with gilded stars and ill cast buckets,
ritual stones that pave all progeny.

In the morning, when we rise.

They fly and become the redlined gourd,
an end and beginning in aspirant ground
where children are parents to trap gods,
where Cops push hoods to the side of the road
for the path of gangster soccer dads,
where Emcees pose then pop their white collars
then make mixes from bones to milly rock to
where Reenactors troll and patrol
then Crip waltz for imagined lands.

In the morning, when we rise.

They rise over the set trip meridian
circling trains, treaties and generations
of blood calls.
                                                  Gonna rise, fabulous
                                                  Gonna rise over this
                                                  Gonna rise, sanctified
                                                 We don’t die, we multiply
                                                 We don’t die, we multiply
                                                 When we rise




Missing LL, Walking from People’s Park to Althemier Church, 5:30 AM

In the mourning park, from wrung out eyes
boombox sambas reverberate walls.
Spins paint light from black blue dawns,
refracted day-to-day from the unseen.
Refracted needles and lines are rings
as I turn in the burnt blue to see us:
the hoodlum and the goth nerd mama,
the bullet gown and the brown ragged suit
hissing at those who hissed,
creating spun sundials over black hats
In a two-step kingdom from memory.

Light breaks in opposition to the heart,
in unduly lights, in shocking stints
in uneasy shadows of neon church fronts
that bloom to homie ghosts.
Children who were parents to hoods
and homies who had their time drawn here.
The heaven and hell of the actual
is in the proximity of the gas can,
is in the proximity of the strewn visions
of street shepherd and lambs’
and piper men’s strolls from humanity.

Resurrections illuminate repainted walls.
Niggas and nightmare dream of nymphs
are refurbished by the taggers eye
              and the ragamuffin MC
spitting in tandem with the stale gospeller.
In the morning, sight is a turned-young dream
              of love engulfed by flames
                sis money,
                                    OG lily of the valley.
My song could not raise you from these flames.
My ladder could not bring you above the door
and my back broke in 90 proofed hives.
My song could not bring you or us from hell,
I sing just to know I am alive now.



“Say Bobby, How Will the Apocalypse Come”

True believer, look for the detention salts.
And the barren morning cages with the final seal.
And soot a river that washes away the swills
that took the place of the water.

Look for the sun as it collapses into dirt licks,
sprinkles into hail over compounds and fences.
The steelhead and trail will be gone in the gateway.
The raven will ride the coyote to deliver
their kinfolk in the quays tossed and burned.

There will be burning arcs with no sign
                                              of the covenant,
a covenant with no sign of the spirits.
Alms once against a sea of troubles
open furnaces below the children’s tents.
Moons transform all homes, tidings and kinfolk.
in the blinding, nothing sky.
The unseen will deliver what our id once denied
in the peril of what has been visible.
All ships will have sailed in spite of their journey.
Blue ferryman will toil in new lit lakes.
Looks will pass as vision for unseen eyes
and fences will give boards but no shelter.

The sea will be filthy. The sea will be burning.
The beast will move in buildings above the dirt
in the captured hour come at last.
The beasts will inhabit the image of man
that circuits and troubles all sight.
The last shall be the first in that final seal night.
This is how the deniers will die.


Robert Lashley is a 2016 Jack Straw Fellow, Artist Trust Fellow, and nominee for a Stranger Genius Award. Robert Lashley has had work published in The Seattle Review of Books, NAILED,  Poetry Northwest, McSweeney’s, and The Cascadia Review. His poetry was also featured in such anthologies as Many Trails to The SummittFoot Bridge Above The Falls, Get Lit,  Make It True, and It Was Written. His previous books include THE HOMEBOY SONGS (Small Doggies Press, 2014), and UP SOUTH (Small Doggies Press, 2017).  His next book THE GREEN RIVER VALLEY,  will be published by Blue Cactus Press in 2021.


Sam Preminger

Sam Preminger is a Portland-based poet. Their work has appeared throughout various publications and they hold an MFA from Pacific University.