fascinated with its own blood.
Despite the desire for “pronouns to take on the corporeal,” to accurately name and give shape to the uncanny, they resist such easy definitions for “they are like the static of a sick-dream, / almost amenable and at the same time, / frizzy, off their marks.” Readers are confronted with an uncanny other, one who is like and unlike us, a macabre Narcissus “fascinated with its own blood.” In exploring this other, the speaker envisions flesh as a possible point of entry: “Here’s a fleshy zipper / that opens in my belly, and I unzip and open and then / there I go. Inside and down the path.” Yet this approach seems too superficial and there are distinct limits:
one holds in one’s body (Twin, Irony, Narcissus),
like its own
trinket, a name repeated.
a thing for what it is.
Furthermore, language as a means to navigate these shifting waters becomes suspect. In Robinson’s poems, language becomes just as slippery, unstable, deceptive, and warped as the self it attempts to name, sometimes even assisting in the permutations. With minute displacement of letters, “split” becomes “spilt” and “spelt.” In “Sanctuary,” thief and victim are conflated: “do you mind, she asked, / if I steal a bit from you.” This phrase is then “murmured to myself,” and the repetition transforms the words, “bit as in bite,” further complicating meaning. “Word after word” folds “in on itself” in self-reflexivity. The inadequacy of language to name and identify ‘self’ is represented as “pointing fingers…broken off at the stem.” Language’s destruction accelerates towards the ending of Counterpart. “Studies for Hell: II” begins with full statements:
will only get lost again.
re-membered in the
Though there is little doubt that Counterpart’s landscape is bleak, this desolation is not without its reassurances. The last poem’s title, “Secret Eden,” hints at this. The speaker instructs, “Speak, tongue, with your obedient quiet. Divide, / but do not be divisive.” The inherent contradiction of speaking with “obedient quiet” is partially reconciled by the calm command to “divide” but “do not be divisive” because it offers a way in which both can be held as truths: it recognizes that division does not have to be alienating. The command continues,