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.
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.