In Memory of Robert W. King
We all miss his voice of course:
The sound of honest sandpaper
Or gravel gurgling
In a rough, river bed.
He could hold you, spellbound,
At a poetry reading,
Favorite grandpa in verse.
Thank the muses we still have his poems.
Poems which slide on the mind
Like well-washed jeans,
Loose and tight in all the right places—
Good for pacing the distances
Between hope and hopelessness.
From now on, when the sages ask:
“What is the sound of one hand clapping?”
I will always think of you, Bob,
And the sound of an Old Man Laughing.
[Editor’s Note: Bob King was a joyful contributor to
VerseWrights. He also recorded three poems with his
distinctive, “honest sandpaper” voice. Old Man Laughing
was his first full-length book of poetry.]
The Book of St. Albans
A murder of crows--
A gaggle of geese.
In poetry and prose--
A linguistic masterpiece!
A parliament of owls
Or perhaps a scream of swifts.
You can feel it in your bowels:
Such luscious artifice!
All the Poets
it seems all the poets
love using the word:
Geography is inspiration.
Botany begets creation.
Esp. in a Mary Oliver poem!
Don’t get me wrong--
I like Mary Oliver.
Her poetry is very peaceful.
Full of animals and nature.
Often depopulated of people.
Everyday someone new
her spiritual spell.
(I wish my books
sold half as well.)
And then there’s the rebels:
The beatnik poets who
had a thing for the Buddha.
Lots of poets now
worship Walt Whitman,
wish they wrote Howl,
won a Nobel like
In the end, all the poets
are the same as you or me.
We have moments of clarity,
and many moments when
we are mysteries unto ourselves:
two-legged, Janus-faced, perplexed,
Searching for the perfect words
in the perfect order
on the most elusive subjects.
None Too Clever
As long as you can remember,
People have always said-
You are not the sharpest tool
In the history of tool sheds.
You are also not the keenest knife
That’s in the kitchen drawer-
And in your case the elevator
Does not go to the top floor.
You’re a burger short
Of a combo meal-
And one ski short
Of a snowmobile.
You’re an open book
But the pages are blank-
A deposit short
Of a functioning bank.
The phone is on
But there’s no reception-
Your eyes are open
But without perception.
You’re a few atoms shy
Of critical mass.
And a car on a road trip
Without any gas.
You’re missing some marbles-
A few screws are loose.
The train has left the station-
And thou art the caboose.
Talk About the Weather
“Weather forecast for tonight: dark.”
When the fingers of winter
Claw their cold way
Through the stark bark
Of brittle trees-
Your figurative heart is still
At home by the hearth,
Curled up little and tight
As the paw of a worn-out kitten-
Clutching a wisp of warmth
Among the fuzz and fizz
Of dying embers.
When it comes to poetry, I am quite ecumenical.
I’ll take it light & lyrical in terms of versification-
Or narrative, experimental and also confessional.
Some slam poets do sound a little too identical-
Making one wish they’d avoid verbalization.
Nevertheless, let us embrace the nonprofessional.
Free verse is fine and so still are sonnets.
Rhymed or unrhymed, irregular or formalist:
Poetry is a church of many different denominations.
As long as craft trumps emotional vomit,
And semblance isn't senseless–or the music subordinate:
Let’s allow each one their particular call & vocation.
My tastes are catholic in the sense of: universal.
If a poem is well done, it will seem irreversible.
I was always below average at math.
Yet I know how fullness retracts
And shrinks back to empty.
How the calculus of loss
Is equal to achievement,
Or simply: how all those numbers
In unencumbered, joyful sequence-
Are neither greater nor less than
The algebra of bereavement.
Poetry in Yo Face
If I feel physically as if the top of my head were
taken off, I know that is poetry.--Emily Dickinson
If hope is the thing with feathers
Like the Myth of Amherst said--
Then poems are words like birds,
Nesting in your head, singing sweetly
Or chirping curses.
As likely to peck your eyes out,
As dazzle you with verses.
Buddhist Constipation Haiku
Face red with straining--
Zazen on white porcelain…
Life is suffering.
Bad First Date
Sensations that are not likely to be understood
are best kept to ourselves. To be sure, a
sunset is highly poetic, but what is more
ridiculous than a woman describing it in long words
for the benefit of matter-of-fact people? –Balzac.
She used the word “luminous”
to describe the setting sun,
but the banker was unimpressed--
he thought it was ludicrous
and so he confessed his preference
for profits over sunsets.
When the moon came out,
she exclaimed: “It is the eye of a
silvery lunatic!” The banker,
(a little nervous now, truth be told),
explained that he was more
into arithmetic than metaphors.
With a sigh, she replied:
“Forgive me for being bold,
but I’m fairly certain you are
a matter-of-fact person.
There’s nothing wrong with that.
There are worse ones to be.
But you see, poetry is my thing.
Why don't we call it a night?”
“Alright” said the banker.
“May your words bring you warmth.
I mean that with all sincerity.”
To which she responded:
“Warm or hot, words can't be bought,
go home and count your currency.”
Such Strange Pageantry
"Remembrance of things past
is not necessarily the remembrance of things
as they were." –Marcel Proust
It is a strange alchemy-
To make the past present
Through an act of will
To make it real
While never leaving
The mind’s labyrinths.
Such strange pageantry-
At times unpleasant
With regretful lament.
Time travel as penance
Is impractical-but still
We honor the Sabbath.
We keep it holy-and we will
Unpack our baggage.
A Flock Made Flesh
The sudden birds erupt upwards
In a shower of speckled confetti--
Startled starlings taking wing.
Like my love in feathers
For you my dear darling--
When you turn and preen
The Poetic Crimes Investigative Unit
No one knows how it happened:
But we found words in Latin
On the crumpled paper napkin,
Clutched in the hand of the poet
Jabbering on the floor by the banister.
He was nude and obviously in shock,
Speaking in misconstrued iambic pentameter
Through chattering teeth, but no rhyme
Or reason could be detected in his talk.
“It’s so cold”, he whispered. “And my heart is like a rock.”
“Perhaps he’s been infected?” suggested the Sergeant.
But the poet’s vitals all seemed normal.
“Well, he didn’t overdose on formal verse”
Declared the paramedic—to which the Sergeant replied:
“Hell, something scared him though. Maybe he’s just cursed.”
It’s all idle speculation, but a witness later said
That she saw abrasions on the poet’s face
The day before—angry stanzas written
In red letters furrowed across his brow.
But she didn’t know what it meant, why or how it got there.
And then we found the note, written in blood
On the bathroom mirror. It sent a shiver
Down everyone’s spine, including the hotel clerk. It said:
“One should never choose to piss off your muse
By asking for inspiration, without doing any work!”
"Well, that settles it”, said the Detective. “What
We have here is an assault on a poet predisposed
To laziness. His own muse beat him down,
Ripped off his clothes and left him exposed.”
And let that be a lesson to you criminals:
Ignorance is no excuse: mystery solved, case closed.
The Scripture opens and a multitude of voices,
assaults your ear. But you can only hear
the one Voice. The one that echoes what
you were taught: that God is truth, not love.
And truth is a club to be used in war.
So you shouldn't be surprised that it strikes me
as being somewhat medieval, this small fortress
with very high walls that you would die for.
I prefer the cathedral, where there is more space
for grace to overcome the evil that men do.
Men like you, for whom certainty is a relief,
prove only one thing: you don't really believe
in God. You believe in belief. That's why any
contradiction results in a fatal hemorrhage...
a faith without a doubt, is a god in your own image.
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