Poetry | June 01, 2002
Poetry Feature: Robert King
Featuring the poems:
- From the Book of Rope
- One of Those Days
- In the Neighborhood
to the businessman comparing business
each part a part of the whole.
flutes of light, cellos bubbling along
allegro–in rushes and deep swirling.
to a business, all its appropriate
toward singular goals, closing up shop
through a downturn of driftwood,
and backpaddle furiously in order
Someone knows how to do everything.
I mean some one person knows how
to do some one thing, and draw
a diagram, such as making a bomb,
etc., but in this case to cut
flower stems with a knife
underwater, what this picture means.
I could be in Russia with these daffodils
and know to cut them underwater
with a knife. So someone knew that,
and someone knows how to cultivate
varieties of daffodils. First, someone knows
there are different names. No,
each person knows one name apiece,
so it takes a lot of them to run
the daffodil company, and one to know
it comes from the Latin asphodelus,
the asphodel, flowers akin to Narcissus
said to cover the Elysian Fields although
no one remembers that species. I run the water,
cut with a knife, someone else knowing
why water runs, knives cut, only you knowing
what you’ll think of them when you arrive
down the one street someone built
and home into the marriage we have made,
both of us, in this case, knowing it, following
the instructions we momentarily concoct,
giving it whole varieties of beautiful names.
From the Book of Rope
First, there is love. Secondly,
the square knot, a perfect binding
of two equal loops, useful
for fastening gifts to each other
or, in the extreme, for closing bandages
over wounds, expected or not.
The sheet bend hooks unequal partners,
originally a rope to the twisted end
of a sail, something fastened against wind.
The bowline’s loop won’t close, good
for saving yourself in mountain climbing,
or, in general, being lifted up, lowered.
Hitches bind us to things, thwarting
our drift, boat to tree, a horse to any rail–
two half hitches, hundreds of half hitches.
In the book of rope, three tests
for every knot–is it easy to tie?
Will it stay tied firmly in use,
and will it be, finally, easy to untie?
Which knot have we chosen?
And what else sadly should we know?
One of Those Days
Each day I am in love
with something, in full
wonder at what’s given.
Yesterday, it was partly
some sparkling Mozart
but mostly, five minutes
earlier, the announcer’s remark:
“Mozart’s coming up
in five minutes.”
Today it’s the beginning
of a sentence in a book
about Tu Fu–“In the spring
of 761…”–regarding several
short songs, an ancient fresh breath.
I realize the museum next door
is chock full of bones and the perpetual
birthdays of rock, that millennia
shift only a few pebbles, and that mostly
everything is utterly forgotten,
but I’m enthralled with the spring
of 761, hold it in my arms all night.
Although Mozart dies young
and Tu Fu’s hopes turn out false
always, I can’t resist singing to myself
the knowledge of unknowable springs,
musical as arpeggios of cherry,
those immortal blossoms, and, above,
those particular clouds passing away.
I remember one aunt with long red hair
who laughed, at least that one afternoon.
The other, subject to some frailty I wasn’t told,
kept pillows on the phones to soften
any potential intrusion. So who’s to say
I don’t remember the aunt who shot
clay pigeons from horseback in Cody’s show,
grit flying up, the smock-smock of the rifle?
Or that I couldn’t remember the aunt
who wrote a long Victorian novel
or the aunt who married Lot
or felt afterward, she said, as if she had?
I remember the aunt with an aureole,
the aunt with an aura, the aunt colored
like an aurora with rings on her auricles
who walked au naturel through the forests,
leaves imprinting a network of lace on her flanks.
I remember the aunt who left no diary,
the one who did, the one the diary was about.
I remember the aunt who made night,
and the aunt who put the stars to flight,
the aunt who traveled into the darkness,
and the aunt who traveled with the darkness.
I remember the one who discovered gold,
the gold one who discovered death,
the dead one who discovered the light,
the light one who discovered electricity
and writing and hair and gunpowder,
and I remember the aunt who brushed her shining red hair
and laughed one afternoon in the pines of the mountains,
and the aunt in the city who moved gently and mysteriously
through dark rooms, none of the telephones daring to speak,
while I invented my families, darkly concocting myself.
In the Neighborhood
We are similar this spring
I see, walking a walk, all
our tulips splitting brightly
open, cups of sharp flame
lined in front of our homes
and, by our back fence lines,
dry stacks of limbs the size
of limbs, the little woods
standing and standing
in their regular pyramids.
After the tulips eat away
into ash, and summer,
that steady green hum,
and leaves flared and fallen,
we’ll go inside our white houses,
and set the houses of trees
afire into red and yellow petals.
We own our home, our tulips
announce. Nothing, the blossoms
hotly crack, nothing is forever.
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