Dancing in Dusty Starlight
In a dance of the nearly dead,
we spin around beneath a universe
of teardrop stars, feel dizzy,
blurred of vision, and small of mind.
In the centrifuge of your arms,
I orbit you in our circle of old age,
but I ache for wisdom to come
from the breakdown of my body,
not to fall like Humpty Dumpty
puzzled by the jigsaw of himself.
As dust swirls and brittle leaves fly,
you too break down a million ways,
like me clinging to the centrifugal force
of dance that tries to fling us apart.
Long ago playgrounds and merry-go-rounds
prepared us for holding on,
but our laughter aged into silence,
and every question, every answer
broke into millions of disconnected mirrors.
Let our shattered shards shine
like the stars spinning
in the arms of a galaxy
where we can only hope our dust
reflects the greater light.
Going Through the Motions
Still I mow the face grass every morning,
bathe all my private parts,
make coffee stronger than I am.
Still I work and work and work . . .
though nothing really seems to work,
no matter how hard I punch the clock.
I seem always outside my body:
The shadow of my shadow,
my daydream drives me home.
Tonight I heat the last frozen diet
you left behind,
toss in half-sleep, flicker-light,
heartburn, and dream rags.
And between shades of meaning
I grope for a photograph, a letter,
a familiar scent, anything
that would have made you stay.
My snowprints reach a woodland home
fenced in by clouds and icicle limbs,
a house of brick and window light,
an insulated bubble in the darkness.
Surely, warmth glows inside every room.
What light leaks out is charity
to snowdrift strangers like me.
Would my knock on the door put the lights out,
set off the dog alarm? Would I hear
feet and voices tangled in a rush to quiet?
To drafts and drifters
mothed by window light,
most warm homes turn cold backs.
I itch to know what makes the soul
join so little as the flesh,
wiring itself to raw nerves,
pounded by the heart
and groans of the groin.
If only I could dissect myself,
my atoms, quarks, and strings,
down to the God particle,
maybe I’d know why
the universe flies apart,
know what galactic arms
are strong enough to hold
even pieces of nothing together.
Maybe the spirit needs to hide
behind something that matters.
Maybe the body needs
its spirit’s lightning.
Perhaps the soul does not exist.
Perhaps matter does not matter.
The poor farm girl
sinks her pail deeply,
down to where the water
is most alive and flowing
over stream-polished stones.
It is most drinkable then,
far purer than her surface life
with its broken nails and backs,
long droughts of the heart,
and calloused hands.
She imagines diving in
to sleep in the living water,
at its deepest to float down
the underground river,
to revive on the soft skin
of a distant shore.
Robert S. King lives in Athens, GA, where he serves on the board of FutureCycle Press and edits the literary journal Good Works Review. His poems have appeared in hundreds of magazines, including Atlanta Review, California Quarterly, Chariton Review, Hollins Critic, Kenyon Review, Main Street Rag, Midwest Quarterly, Negative Capability, Southern Poetry Review, and Spoon River Poetry Review. He has published eight poetry collections, most recently Diary of the Last Person on Earth (Sybaritic Press 2014) and Developing a Photograph of God (Glass Lyre Press, 2014).