Ruby Robinson introduces her poem 'Love II'
It’s not about love. Being in or out of it. How can I say? I respect you.
There are things you’ve done I’d never have thought of. But I’m not made
for skin sensations or the light of a candle. My natural opioids run high,
I’ve insects in my peripheral vision. Or have I? Love was said too many
hundreds of millions of times even for a strong man like you
to counteract /
the money spider’s edging closer. It traverses my open book
as if my skin weren’t skin at all, but nerve endings in exile.
(If viewing on a smartphone this poem is best read in landscape)
This poem is a small gesture towards the huge themes of love and attachment. It's a very personal piece yet I hope that others might relate to it. What happens to you as a child, as Paul Farley once put it, has a "long half-life." In my case, being separated from my birth mother, followed by harmful experiences in the foster care system, left a legacy that is carried into relationships and attachments in adulthood. As I tried to navigate the dynamics of my mother's family, I learnt more about the toxic way that 'love' is conceptualised and used as a barrier from the truth and a tool to disguise real problems in family relationships, sometimes to disastrous consequences, as for my mother.
This poem alludes to the dissociative state a person enters when the parasympathetic nervous system is triggered in response to traumatic threat (in this case, interpersonal trauma). In the same way that a loud noise might trigger a stress response in a war veteran, aspects of interpersonal relationship can trigger a stress response in a survivor of earlier interpersonal trauma. I'm not sure that this is widely understood in our society, but I feel sure it's widely experienced. Other poems in the collection also explore this idea, for example, the poem 'Flashback'.
'Love II' is taken from Every Little Sound, Ruby Robinson's debut volume that was shortlisted for the Felix Dennis Prize for Best First Collection. Ruby was born in Manchester and grew up in South Yorkshire. Her work has appeared in Poetry (Chicago) and The Poetry Review and she was awarded an MA in Writing from Sheffield Hallam University, where she also won the Ictus Prize. You can read an interview with Ruby here.