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
The Bread Knife of My Aunt
Though one of the family’s smallest jokes,
the blade having worn into a thin curve
through the lives of many loaves,
it was still the good knife. So where was I,
anyway, when death made it
wholly unnecessary, then lost?
Now in my father’s battered toolbox
I find a screwdriver he chiseled,
twisted, and pried with until
it no longer serves its original purpose.
Earlier, holding a tarnished spoon once
mangled by mother in the new-fangled
garbage disposal: the wear our lives take
on whatever we happen to touch.
I wish now I had that knife.
I’d set it beside these two relics,
perhaps on an empty suitcase, preparing
a table where no one will come to eat
in the presence of all our enemies
Through the pines, the trail turning
sharply up, the blue sky breaks
suddenly through and you know
you’re about at the top
although after a quarter mile
of your hard breathing, the sky
is covered by another hill,
more pines. You’re doomed to live
on earth, its ragged paths
promising heaven, delivering
another stretch down, then up,
of whatever it is you’re climbing.
Saying the Word
The mountains become water
carrying themselves away.
To rise implies to fall down.
Still, one climbs the mountains.
Even sitting, doing nothing,
one climbs the mountains.
Not one millimeter of “David”
is the same first smooth of surface.
This is what I mean.
I looked at my father’s skull
while he lay inside a machine.
This is what I mean.
And while streams begin descent
the mountains pretend to keep
the shape we call ageless.
We say that, over and over.
And then we stop saying that
and someone else begins.
Life, I seem to recall
from a year of Anglo Saxon poetry
in the old days, is like a bird
flying out of the cold and dark
in one door of the heroes’ mead-house
through the smoke and warmth of fires,
earth-smell, sweat-stench, roasted meat,
and winging out the other door
into another cold and dark.
I remember this suddenly
on the bank of a mountain stream
watching an ouzel flutter
into the shining, its body
dipping and bobbing as it feeds
under the push of the current,
and then flutters out again
to its rock: wet and satisfied.
The Things of Cezanne
We stood in Cezanne’s studio
and the guide spoke in French because
the English tour was at 5
and I preferred dinner more than
understanding any language.
It was magical and almost
sacred to stand there, even in French,
the way it had been sacred
and almost magical that morning
to take the bus from Aix in rain—
he died of pneumonia after
painting two hours in a rain—
and wind past farms, hamlets, and wet woods
to stare at the bottom of Mont
St. Victoire which he painted more
than fifty times, whose rocks slanted
fifty yards up to become fog
and cloud and then fog again
so we didn’t want to climb it.
At Cezanne's studio, some things
that were in his still lifes were on
his shelves lined around the big room.
You remember the blue pitcher?
Well, there was that old Blue Pitcher.
The ochre plate? The Ochre Plate.
But the biggest thing stationed there
was a huge stepladder, legs splayed,
ready for his larger canvases,
such a rustic piece of lumber
yet so necessary, climbing
up to work, climbing down to work,
maybe thinking This is getting
really old, though he was happy.
And when we left, the rain came down
again the way it might have rained
on him, I mean on every thing
but he was one of those things then
and we were two of those things now.
Credits: 'The Trail,' 'Another Bird,' 'Saying the Word,' and 'Bread Knife of my Aunt' were originally published in Versewrights. 'The Things of Cezanne' originally appeared in The Adirondack Review.
©2015 Robert W. King