Robert the Painter
Leontia Flynn is the author of three collections of poetry. Her most recent, Profit and Loss, was shortlisted for the T.S. Eliot Prize. Her work has received many accolades including an Eric Gregory Award, the Forward Poetry Prize for Best First Collection and the Rooney Prize for Irish Literature. She lives in Belfast where she is currently a Research Fellow at the Seamus Heaney Centre for Poetry.
ROBERT THE PAINTER
I once lived in the house of an infamous death.
Time and the tidal nature of the streets
—Baltic, Pacific, Atlantic Avenue—
had almost washed it off, but late that summer
my mother remembered hearing of the murder.
When he had choked her and hit her on the head
and stabbed her four or five times with a carving knife
the killer caught the public imagination
by scalding the woman with hot broth from the stove.
He walked away through the post-war, wire-tense streets.
At night in the ashes of my own affairs
I dowsed each room for signs of macabre frisson
—but the past remained dust. It would not stir at the thought
of her votive lamps, of the floor where her dentures fell,
or her roses in the garden, blooming yearly.