Robert Stein

Robert Schumann, Resident for a Year at Endenich
Asylum, is Under the Supervision of Dr. Franz Richarz

Last Tuesday they rolled both pianos down the hill.
In the pile at the bottom, near the farm,
Are sheet music, newspapers, four notebooks,
The upended instruments and an audience of bleating sheep.

Last Wednesday – I think – they tied my hands together until dinner.
The silver spoon with Clara’s name is held for safe keeping.
They took me for a swim even though I don’t swim.
Tomorrow is the blindfold and the bell.

I cannot hurt myself if there are no sounds to chafe against.
They’ve blanketed off the cell-bars and told me Clara is dead.
My dinner is not served and the hunger evidence of madness.
Hour by hour, a little piece of everything.

When they hose me down I ensure I keep my suit on.
I stand tall as if conducting, so the water-jet
Arcs slowly back off my heart under my waistcoat
And asperges them, marvelling.

I bless them all even as they gag my Latin,
Looking each one right between the eyes,
Chanting the name of each and smiling
Which they know means I am recalling something beautiful.

Only the most junior Krankenschwester –
Her face as pale as Dupont’s manuscript paper – is sympathetic.
She has agreed to let me have a small metal spoon.
I just need the earth to beat against.

Robert Stein’s first collection The Very End of Air appeared in 2011. As well as appearing in Acumen, his poems have been published in Poetry Review,
Poetry London, Agenda, The Rialto, Ambit and elsewhere. ‘Margo Szonyi in her Last Year’ was shortlisted for the Bridport Prize 2021.