Robert W. King
Born on the east slope of the Colorado Rockies, I've retired now back to my home grounds. Having done several chapbooks and gotten two full-length works published (Old Man Laughing, Ghost Road Press, and Some of These Days, Conundrum Press. I'm working on a creative non-fiction book exploring my return to northern Colorado, Reunion. I direct the website www.ColoradoPoetsCenter.org. My personal website is: http://www.robertkingpoet.com
Forty years since high school so over lunch he and I
talk about our history but not even that, nothing
about the little successes or the failures,
my divorce, who knows what about his marriage,
and instead speak of the home town cemetery
where our mothers and fathers lie beneath their dates,
nor we do speak of that, but about one spring night,
and our first beer, the church-key piercing the dewy cans
releasing a wish of pent-up surprise, that cold
shock, as we stood in the darkness among the dead
laughing, suddenly older and braver,
relishing a bitter foam we called the future.
The man in a patched-up jacket, gathering
a string of pearly beads from the trash
of yesterday’s Mardi Gras tells me
these were his son’s favorite, that he takes
a string this time of year when he visits
the young man’s grave, whose heart, the doctor said,
was fine a week before he died. I don’t know
how any father stands beside that loss.
A girl passes us by, ash-smudge on her forehead,
mourning the young man who had all the world
spread out before him, whose heart was fine.
Down the street, workmen start to wreck
the wooden planks and crosses of the bleachers.
Discovering from a phone-call—which turned out
to be to your ex-husband whom I also
haven’t seen for forty years—that you now live
in Harrisburg I think of calling though I don’t.
It’s enough to know you’re in Harrisburg
while I’m in Lincoln, although I can’t
imagine who you’ve become. Nor can I imagine
Harrisburg, although it sounds like the name
of a Civil War battle, setting brother
against brother, when Lincoln was president.
Last year, the first time since college, I called
our friend Bill whose brother had already died
and he had little to ask about my life
which irritated me although I had little to ask
about his, my call a strange interruption
to whatever they were doing, maybe
his wife waiting in the background,
jingling the car keys. What would she ask
when he hung up? And what would he say?
I couldn’t imagine even my own biography.
By now, I’ve stalled weeks phoning you,
postponing that moment undreamed of
by you right now, when we will meet again
in voices, when I will tell you everything
and you will gladly say you’ve been waiting
almost desperately to hear it all these years.
The Grand Bullies
Not much frustration in a life this long
although when prodded I remember Lloyd,
on our bikes a block from school, edging closer
until my tires rubbed curb and spilled me
onto the grass which got tears in its eyes.
Later I looked at the 5th grade picture,
all of us lined against the school wall like
facing an unfair firing squad, squinting
into the sun, trying to see the future.
In the back row I stand taller than Lloyd,
a fact that continues to amaze me.
I admit the bullies were milder then
and I’ve forgotten their names—Robert
and Earl and Dick, any one of whom
could easily have beaten up Lloyd.
His girlfriend then was skinny little Joyce
who later became—I don’t know what Lloyd
later became—a mezzo-soprano singing
Carmen, singing Aida, doomed women both,
who once were ten themselves, with lovely voices.
I think of becoming a bass, growling
warnings of misfortune to those guys,
until I remember they were squinting too,
chunky runts with cocky but uncertain smiles.
Oh—Joyce, as a singer, changed her name to Joy.
Standing in an open-air bar, open
also to the almost twilight ocean,
I watched a muscular figure shovel sand
into the murky bags lugged by his donkey,
shifting its weight at each new weight, the better
to carry its burdens which I did not yet have,
the sand for cement for the half-built hotel
beginning to jut out whitely from the hill.
Years later, I meet someone who went there later,
looking out from the lights with a beer in hand,
and I remember the workman I didn’t know,
trudging off, the donkey straining under the load,
as they built houses out of sand beside the sea.
My friend had a good time there and will return.
But I have watched the ruins of an artificial villa
darken, then go wavering into the dark.
©2015 Robert W. King