Robbie Gamble 




Remain in the light, though it may waver.

Remain in the gentle grasp of hands you trust.

Remain open-mouthed, wide-eyed, arms spread to possibility.

Though dark oceans are rising, remain afloat.

Remain at your post: at the blackboard, on the shop floor, hand on the plough.

Remain upright, remain in motion, remain ever on course.

Remain gorgeous, remain lyrical, remain for the last encore.

Remain outraged at cruelties that gouge through our humanity.

Remain for the casualties, chant their names in the streets.

For all the barbed words that would hook you, remain thick-skinned.

Shoulder your remaining hurt and empty, bring it with you.

Foothold, slip, foothold: remain focused on ascending.

Remain calm in the belly.

Remain eye-to-eye.

Remain sane.



                      Originally published in Poems2go



Round and Round

So hard to get out of the spiral of ruminating.
These things are not at all the way I want them to be.
So hard to get out of the spiral of ruminating.  
These things are not at all the way I want them to be.
So hard to get out of the spiral of ruminating.
These things are not at all the way I want them to be.
So stuck in the spiral of ruminating.
These things all get in the way— where do I want us to be?
And then— it always feels a miracle—
a chunk of truth splashes down
sending out rings of waves
that calm the waters
calm the waters


the waters


Reading from the Desert Fathers at the Laundromat


Just reopened under new management:
longer hours, cleaner tiles, the same broken dryer.


A certain brother went to Abbot Moses and asked him for a good word. And the elder said to him: Go, sit in your cell, and your cell will teach you everything.

The small room at the back
shelves and shelves of tiny boxes:
Tide, Wisk, Bounce.
The old man who sat there silently
all those late afternoons, gone now.


Abbot Anthony taught Abbot Ammonas, saying: You must advance yet further in the fear of God. And taking him out of the cell he showed him a stone, saying: Go and insult that stone, and beat it without ceasing. When this had been done, St. Anthony asked him if the stone had answered back. No, said Ammonas. Then Abbot Anthony said: You too must reach the point where you no longer take offence at anything.

One of the elders said: Just as a bee, wherever she goes, makes honey, so a monk, wherever he goes, if he goes to do the will of God, can always produce the spiritual sweetness of good works.

The dryers spinning clockwise, always clockwise, I imagine the whole world over.

I could not tell you how many other patrons are here today; we all practice custody of the eyes. We are folding our sheets, marrying socks, making mental grocery lists with absolute concentration.


The windowsill library of Auto Traders and real estate circulars, yellowing.



It was said of Abbot Agatho that for three years he carried a stone in his mouth until he learned to be silent.


I separate my lights from my darks
and take care not to overload
the machines. My shirts emerge
white, but still there are dog hairs
on everything.


Abbot Mark once said to Abbot Arsenius: It is good, is it not, to have nothing in your cell that just gives you pleasure? For example, once I knew a brother who had a little wildflower that came up in his cell, and he pulled it out by the roots. Well, said Abbot Arsenius, that is all right. But each man should act according to his own spiritual way. And if one were not able to get along without the flower, he should plant it again.

It came to me: rise up, go out from this place, from the murmuring dryers and the whine of the spin cycles, from the pall of Fresh Spring Scent and lint strands hanging from the ceiling lights; go out past the curb onto Centre Street, raise your eyes to clear sky, the air bearing wafts of siren and lilac. And just stand there.


Abbot Lot came to Abbot Joseph and said: Father according as I am able, I keep my little rule, and my little fast, my prayer, meditation and contemplative silence; and according as I am able I strive to cleanse my heart of thoughts: now what more should I do?

[I put another quarter in the dryer]

The elder rose in reply and stretched  out his hands to heaven, and his fingers became like ten lamps of fire. He said: Why not be totally changed into fire?





Robbie Gamble lives in Brookline, Massachusetts. He recently completed an MFA in poetry at Lesley University. When not preoccupied with image and line breaks, he works as a nurse practitioner caring for homeless people in Boston. He has work out and forthcoming in The Wax Paper, The American Journal of Poetry, DISTRICT LIT, and Poet Lore.