Robin Chapman is the author of fourteen collections of poetry, including the Parallel Press chapbook The Only Everglades in the World and the Posner Poetry Award-winning books The Way In (Tebot Bach) and Images of a Complex World: The Art and Poetry of Chaos (with J.C. Sprott’s fractals and explanations; World Scientific). Her book, The Dreamer Who Counted the Dead, received a Wisconsin Library Association Outstanding Poetry Book of the Year Award, and her book Abundance received the Cider Press Editors’ Book Award. She has collaborated with composers, painters, textile artists and scientists in producing work, including a traveling Epidemic Peace Imagery show of poets and artists. She posts her watercolors, and other poets’ poems, on Robin Chapman’s Poem a Day Blog. She has held writing residencies at the Banff Centre for the Arts Leighton Studios and Vermont Studio Center and is a recipient of the 2010 Appalachia Poetry Prize, and a Wisconsin Arts Board Literary Arts Fellowship. She is a Fellow of the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts, and Letters and is a life member of WFOP. She teaches week-long poetry workshops at The Clearing and Bjorklunden.
Robin Chapman's poems have appeared in many print and online journals, including The Alaska Quarterly Review, The American Scholar, Appalachia, The Christian Science Monitor, The Hudson Review, Poetry, and Valparaiso Poetry Review and on Poetry Daily, Verse Daily, American Life in Poetry, and The Writers' Almanac. The eelgrass meadow (Tebot Bach 2011), Dappled Things (Paris: Revue K, 2013), a portfolio of her poems accompanying 23 of Peter Miller’s photogravures, and One Hundred White Pelicans (Tebot Bach, 2013) are her most recent books; Six True Things will be out from Tebot Bach in 2016. She has also co-edited the anthologies On Retirement (with Judith Strasser, University of Iowa Press) and Love Over 60: An Anthology of Women’s Poems (with Jeri McCormick, Mayapple Press).
Who among us knows
as deep in our roots
how ephemeral life is?
Who sheds the winter
as quickly, who in our haste
to bloom thrusts up a face
to the sun, only the sun
and the bees
before we have even unfolded
Who praises in our green
open-handedness as gladly?
-from Abundance, Cider Press, 2009
Originally appeared in Appalachia, 2005
Midnight, and people I love are dying,
and I can't sleep so I'm up thinking
too hard scribbling these words in the dark
because the physics science news I read
before bed is making me crazy now
with incomprehension—it makes
no sense to me that gravity should exist,
what I know about is love:
that flaring up of caring connection
that lasts life-long and does not depend
on distance, and it makes no sense to me
that the speed of light in a vacuum
should be a constant in this universe
transforming at every instant along the way,
speeding and slowing, and it makes no sense
to me that there should have been an origin
of the universe and before that nothing—
surely it was everything, waiting there?
When our lives are spun out of star furnaces
and our histories of DNA mutable, shifting,
remaking themselves in us—all that stuff
of the universe spun out of nothing?
It makes no sense, and it makes no sense
that time should have a beginning and no end,
for what was the constant face of love
before time began and before matter
assembled and before that small dense crush
exploded into what, so very briefly,
would, some small fraction, run through
our bodies, changing daily, the days
of our lives—and where do they go?
Those we love? It makes no sense to me
that the light of their countenances
or the love we carry should wink out
and light, that constant of the universe,
speed on in nothingness, undeterred by loss.
The Common, Issue 9
© 2015 by Robin Chapman (reprinted on Poetry Daily)