Robbie Burton was adopted at five months old, giving her freedom to claim anyone and anywhere as her own—in her head. So after her husband died in 2007 she had no qualms about moving from her home town in the industrial north to the Welsh hillside village she’d loved since childhood. These landscapes and their people inform her poems—and her voice in this memorable debut collection is like someone you’ve always known. Someone conversant with wattage, a donkey and a mattock.
They asked me to write you into a love poem.
I said I couldn’t do it, not knowing enough
about the bend and stretch of your sinews
and why a single hair grew in the middle
of your chest. I wasn’t prepared to tell them
about your irises going fuzzy
or the way your face changed shape that time
you were trapped inside a room with strangers
turning you into someone I’d never met.
With you inside a love poem, I said,
music would blast through the words, letting out
bus engine rumble and the thud-thud-thud of boats.
Surely they could see that a love poem with you in it
would really be about me.