Death of the Poet-King

for the ‘legacies and archaeology’ picture prompt. linked up to Real Toads.

also, because it’s bugging me so, and because it looks like i’ll need to get a new wordpress theme if i want to do any sort of formatting, here’s a link to the poem as it should appear:




Death of the Poet-King


He died,

(It was a morning in early fall;
the days just beginning to yellow around the edges, the way they do,
skies in grey, slashed with blackbirds,
and the wind around the eaves speaking of wild, taloned things coming)

and they combed through his pockets.

(1 crushed handkerchief, slight tear in the lower left quadrant;
42 cents in change;
1 Hohner harmonica ((this was in the breast pocket, and caused quite a stir. No one had ever known him to play))
1 silver paperclip molded into the shape of a tiny airplane)

Their voracious, archaeological fingers
rifling through the contents
of drawers and cupboards
(there was one drawer that held nothing whatever save three cats-eye marbles and
A roll of yellow duct tape)

as though they were delving through ancient relics
of an alien civilization.
(there was an air of hushed sacredness about their movements,
each item placed carefully in ziplock bags ((he would have thought it ridiculous,
their handling his duct tape as though it were heavy with universal significance (((It was, of course. Ridiculous.))). )).)

But it’s not there.
(I want to scream it to them…
In whispers that shatter their well-documented certainties)

Stop your foolish scavenging!
What you’re looking for is not
to be found in
the faded wallet,
or in the shoes, worn through to windows.

It is not in the bank account
or the glove compartment
or stored in a zip drive
taped to the underside of the desk.

Nor is it in the photographs;
(though they think they will find something there)
not in the letters;
or the notes in the margins
of the books in stacked architecture on the bedside table.

For we are not our ragged remains.

We are born with nothing, not even a name.
(he said that to me, once)
And so we hike our hill-like days,
picking up one thing and another
as we go,
but none of it is us.

What you seek,
you hungry-minded treasure scarabs,
is written in stories carved on his bones
in letters of flame and soul.
It is stamped into muscle and tissue,
and strung on twisting strands of DNA, like tenement wash.
It flows in lymph and plasma sluiceways,
and flies through axon galaxies
like swift,
flashing-scaled fish.

Show me the surrealist archaeology can pull that from the ruins of a body.
What noble-browed, satchel-wielding disciple of Truth is there
can read the haiku sorrow
imbedded like ghost tracks in silent organs.

Those things,
(The only things that matter-
the pieces of our flagrant, individual, gold-wrought selves,
and of the great glass-sided world;
of the scarred, winding, multi-stoned wall of human striving-)

those are the things we carry inside us;
(too precious even to pack away for safe keeping)
in the skin-wrapped frame we inhabit
littered, as it is,
with bones and blood.

And so, look not to him,
you seekers of immaculate revelation.
(He carries his vision still,
((curled and dark))
in the secret places of marrow and longing.)

but to your own self’s sculpture;
to the words etched in pain and glory
running down your fear-spiked spine.

Turn your glass about,
and take in the breathless vast
harbor of the sky that
blooms inside your chest.

And then,

if your courage holds,
take up your instrument,
(as he did
in stillness and with unbridled passionate glee)

and turn yourself inside out.

Let the world be undone with wonder
at the swift, clean air of you,
and all your breathless open-rising beauty.


13 responses to “Death of the Poet-King

  1. What a beautiful, unfolding read. Particularly liked the finely juxtaposed mundane with a transcendental still so precisely rooted in the here, now, body.

  2. Whenever I read one of your pieces, I come away feeling uplifted and with some deep wisdom carved anew into my psyche. This is so self-affirming, the insistence that we are so much more than the sum of our parts. More than our ragged remains.

  3. wonderful work…

  4. This is one fantastically good piece of writing. Loved every line, loved the story, so well told, loved the incredibly perfect words. Wonderful write!

  5. these lines deserve double praise – on WC and here – “Turn your glass about,
    and take in the breathless vast
    harbor of the sky that
    blooms inside your chest.” – brilliantly poetic – in essence and style – a classy writer for sure! haha

  6. I am not sure, but I do not this that I have ever read so many excellent phrases in one piece. This is marvelous writing!

  7. thanks all around. and to you especially, OT for putting me on the path.

  8. “too precious even to pack away for safe-keeping” …well said, well said

    I am not, you are not, we are not the things we accumulate.

    — K

    Kay, Alberta, Canada
    An Unfittie’s Guide to Adventurous Travel

  9. Amazing use of language, that had me utterly engaged to the last word.

  10. Your writing is superb. You have a new fan!

  11. I came back and read this again, and got even more from it. You write so brilliantly. Especially breath-taking: “what you seek…..flies through axon galaxies”….”what can read…the haiku sorrow “….”take in the breathless vast harbor of the sky that blooms inside your chest.” The last two stanzas are especially stunning. Well, the whole poem is. Whew, what a rich read!

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