Upon Rereading Richard Hugo
How strange, I thought, opening to a letter,
a paean to what broke him, that in the midst
of muscle and nerve, to have cracked was
the sure way to force the poet to confer
with madness and self, to seek solace in others,
to heal. Skipping to the dreams, I scanned bits
of rhythm impossible to resist
or translate. The wreckage. Though what better
form to transmit the sense of someone
fallen, the mysterious abyss.
I shut the book, closed my eyes, caught a man
in a kitchen, tossing out good food. His
eyes were red. He’d been sobbing for hours.
His witness: a square gray stone on counter.
Hemingway Spots Faulkner in a Bar
I walk in, size the postman up. That’s what
men do. We eat, drink, hunt, fight. We read.
We write for our lives so the pages bleed
stories. I go in with a long knife, cut
the fat. All red meat. Rich. The sweetest nut.
Love, loss, hunger, ambition, weakness, greed.
I cross lands, seas, skies, taking as I need
to pin down readers, punch them in the gut.
I admit the fisherman vexes me,
his mean ego, an insecurity
that diminishes an aptness that ought
to have done more, though that’s fancy half-thought,
my sense. So I nod to the fellow scribe,
catch his eye, raise a glass—cross-room we imbibe.
Ken Waldman has six full-length poetry volumes, a memoir, a children’s book, and nine CDs that combine original poetry with Appalachian-style string-band music. He tours nationally. These two poems are from an unpublished manuscript, The Writing Party, a hybrid project that’s part writing instructional guide, part memoir, part poetry collection. More than four hundred of Ken’s poems have appeared in such publications as Beloit Poetry Journal, Manoa, Puerto del Sol, Quarterly West, South Dakota Review, and Yankee. His short stories have appeared in Gargoyle, Laurel Review, The MacGuffin, and almost a dozen other journals. Both his poetry and fiction have been nominated for Pushcart Prizes. Visit his website for more information: www.kenwaldman.com