National Poetry Month – Richard Allen Taylor

Richard Allen Taylor is another of the Charlotte-area poets I’ve had the great pleasure of knowing for many years. In addition to being a regular at various reading and open mic venues, he’s one of the founding co-editors of Kakalak, a journal of poetry and art.

Richard’s own poetry highlights his every day observations about humanity, politics, the world in general – and his own quirky, subtle takes on them. He read poems from his latest collection at open mics before the book was published, and his premise that there should be a specific angel for such ordinary objects as maps had all of us eager to hear which angel would appeared next.

From his latest collection, Armed and Luminous, published through Main Street Rag, posted with the poet’s permission.

My First Appointee

My niece, Mary, coos to her child while feeding him

pureed carrots. Zack protests with screams and sputters,

tongues the goop out as fast as she shovels it, smears it

over his face, a jack-o-lantern with a scowl.

 

I watch the banquet from just outside the kitchen,

where I prop my leg, sore from knee surgery,

on a pile of cushions. Unflappable Mary

keeps spooning, calls him my perfect angel.

She raises her voice to ask

 

Do you believe in angels, Uncle?

 

Sure I do, I reply, like half the population,

but not the Hollywood kind, although I do like

Clarence in “It’s a Wonderful Life” and some

of the angels mentioned in one out of ten

popular songs. No to Teen and Johnny Angel.

Yes to Sara McLaughlin’s Angel and John Prine’s

Angel from Montgomery. Yes to Hark the Herald.

 

If I were running Heaven, I’d have an angel

for everything, not just for annunciations

and deaths, but one for chance, one for maps,

one for happiness, grief, melodrama,

procrastination. I’d have a management angel

to do the hiring. Accounting angels to track expenses

and pay the bills. At least one angel of technology.

 

And you, Zack buddy, you can be

my first appointee. Angel of Tantrums.

 

Christmas Angel

The hand that places me atop the tree is younger,

softer than last year. Again, I have been passed down

from mother to daughter. My previous owner saved me

 

for last, but this one begins with me. I watch her work

across the branches as she spirals the tinsel and coils

the lights, then hangs fat little globes by their wire hooks.

 

The precious trinkets – some knitted into tiny red

socks, others glassy, etched with family history – fill the gaps

until no space remains to hang another. I peer down

 

on the children, a year older, and a scrawny black cat

who has lost the urge to paw even the lowest boughs.

The mother shuffles to the kitchen now, shuts out the kids

 

while she wraps the few gifts they can afford

in paper snowmen and cartoon reindeer, red and green

ribbons knotted with lollipops. The father stares

 

at his computer in the next room. He finds

the help-wanted ad I have been leading him to

since my unboxing. On the living room floor,

 

a ten-year-old girl lies on her back and looks

up through the branches, squints for the fun of seeing

the lights blur into the Sugar Plum Fairy she saw

 

in the Nutcracker. Her brother asks if Santa will really

come to their house this year. Of course, she says.

He always does. Full of questions, the boy points at me.

 

He wants to know if I’m a real angel.

The sister says, No, it’s just an ornament.

 

The Train to Redemption

I almost miss it, but catch the last car,

find a window seat next to a woman

who opens her bag of sewing –

needles, pins, fabric spilling over

her knees – and what she’s sewing,

I don’t know. She says nothing

as I lean my head against the sad

window, and watch the land scroll,

trees waving like sword-grass

in a rush of green infantry, charging

the horizon until the sun sinks

and pulls the sky down with it.

 

After an hour of darkness, the lights

of Redemption appear and the woman

hems while she hums, a tune I won’t name

because it’s one of those that sticks

in your head and drives you crazy for hours

once you hear it. As the train approaches

the station, the air in the car smells

like apples and rain, and this woman

who has not spoken to me, but has

the gift of threading her eyes

with whatever the moment requires,

stitches me with a look of forgiveness

I didn’t know I needed.

 

Richard’s answers to my questions ~

I don’t remember my first poems, which have been lost, and should have been burned if they weren’t lost. I was probably 17 or 18, and you know what teenage boys think about. It was probably about my crush du jour.

If I could raise a glass with any poet living or dead, I’d choose William Shakespeare. I’d like to ask him about fardels and bodkins.

 

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2 Responses to National Poetry Month – Richard Allen Taylor

  1. quinonesev1 says:

    “My First Appointee” is one of my favorite poems. Thanks to Richard for writing it, and thanks to you, Kim, for publishing it!

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