Please help the Black Earth Institute continue to make art and grow community so needed for our time. Donate now »

a literary journal published by the Black Earth Institute dedicated to re-forging the links between art and spirit, earth and society

Section One Earth

Richard Robbins

The Size of the Heart
Some mountains grow huge as a man’s heart, stilling the inner air even as the
    man runs himself to exhaustion along a Northwest river.
Some mountains play the immoveable opponent, against which the wrestler
    discerns destiny or fall.
Some mountains lie under the lake surface, the cabin’s chimney smoking.
Some play the two notes, water-like, under the motorcycle roar blazing over
    county roads in summer.
Some, for a while, fill the tear in the artery wall.
Some make the hard bed the heart lies down in, dying.
Some turn a human being to granite, especially in the last hours, when man and
    mountain become the other, breaking into light at the tree line, starting up
    again on the farther side.
He awoke from the coma, the snow melting from that summit.
The first thing he asked: “Did I die?”
The machinery around him retreated. Services had to be cancelled, the half-
    written elegies laid aside.
He wanted to drive his van 1500 miles west to the mountains, alone with the
    dogs, alone with the tear in the heart.
No one could answer. Doctors entered a code for the record.
How could they disallow anything after the stone had been rolled away?
How could they prevent his getting up from a death bed to walk the earth again,
    never sure of his status, speaking a sensible tongue, working miracle after
    miracle on the unbelievers?
Richard Robbins grew up in Southern California and Montana. He studied with Richard Hugo and Madeline DeFrees at the University of Montana, where he earned his MFA. He has published five books of poems, most recently Radioactive City and Other Americas. He has received awards from The Loft, the Minnesota State Arts Board, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Poetry Society of America. He directs the creative writing program and Good Thunder Reading Series at Minnesota State University, Mankato. For more about his work, see





©2024 Black Earth Institute. All rights reserved.  |  ISSN# 2327-784X  |  Site Admin