CHOOSING WHERE TO LEAVE
1. The Corso Death Scene
Gregory once told me that
if he were on the street and knew
he were dying, he’d slip into
a movie, didn’t know why.
So there were assumptions:
a theater nearby, the right time.
Well, we know now his way
didn’t happen—daughter’s house,
hospital. I thought, reading the news,
that a movie would have had
the comfort of closed darkness
and he’d have been with others,
a whole roomful staring at lights,
at color, with music, everyone
talking and talking on the screen,
a movie about being alive.
I’ve always hoped I’d lie
out on a hill the time death rose,
busy with the clouds and their rich
transient concoctions, the way
they boil up with luxurious names,
while doing, and that sharp blue.
3. The Stupid Tree
But it will be, outside, some stupid tree
and then I will not “see to see,”
as Dickinson described. It will be chance,
an insignificant tree with no intention
or lesson or maybe part of a terrible formal garden.
4. The Theater of Trees
Their leaves will shine like broken pieces
implacably. They will not care
about death, even their own.
And the lights too go out slowly
in the cramped rooms of the leaves,
like small theaters darkening
except that in real life, the lights
come on again. Gregory, wake up.
The colored musical clouds have moved on.
Everyone has stopped talking now.
APPLES OF THE POET
The poet said I could come out to his place in the country and gather windfall apples.
Another friend had found a cider press and invited others so I was in the market for apples, but whatever I expected, it was not these:
freckled and pocked, pied, worm-bitten, dappled, dazzled, shrunken, with patches of yellow and green and red.
Each apple could have been one of his poems, each particular in its diction, offering “delights,” offering “shadows,” which would one day win a Pulitzer.
So I left with two heavy paper anthologies of apples and later, in the city, I turned the wheel that caused the lumps into a dusky yellow juice and sat with the others.
The poet had quit smoking and drinking years before. Just think of Keats with all his cigarettes and Scotch—no, that was me, not Keats.
Then think of Keats lying sick in his little rocking death boat waiting to leave for Italy day after day.
The juice was the color of troubled sunsets in Italy shining on old windows—the taste of a “mellow fruitfulness” of harvest as we gathered all we could before the winter.
I drank—although some had gin and tonics that warm afternoon—until I was almost sick of it, my shirt stained with a golden smoke, my hands thick with stickiness.
And then I, never to win a Pulitzer because I had not been writing poetry all my life—I had not done anything all my life—helped clean the press and was he dup and went home, lugging a couple of volumes of murky juice
that tasted delicious, as will any essence crushed and run, and that looked—like any natural beauty—as if it would rot in a week.
[from Some of These Days]
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From the publisher’s Web site:
Robert Wendell King was born Dec. 7, 1937, in Denver, Colorado, and graduated from Fort Collins High School in 1955. He received his B. A. in English in 1959 from the State University of Iowa and returned to Colorado, getting his M. A. in American Literature from Colorado State University in 1961. He received his Ph. D. in English/Creative Writing from the University of Iowa and the Iowa Writers’ Workshop in 1965.
After three years of teaching at the University of Alaska/Fairbanks, he began his career at the University of North Dakota in 1968 where he had a joint appointment teaching creative writing in the Department of English and in Elementary Education. In 1971, he was named Outstanding Professor. From 1975-1979 he also worked in the North Dakota Poet in the Schools Program. He retired as Professor Emeritus from the University of North Dakota in 1996, having received the UND Faculty Achievement Award for Excellence in Teaching, Research, Creative Activity, and Service. He has since lectured at the University of Nebraska and the University of Northern Colorado.
He has three children—Lisa, Lynn, and Lawrence, all living in North Dakota—and he currently lives in Greeley, Colorado, where he writes and directs the Colorado Poets Center.