The Sunday Poem: Kell Robertson (In Memorium)... Two Poems

Kell Robertson died last November in a small straw-bale cabin outside Santa Fe.  He was both featured, then memorialized by Gary Brower in Malpaís Review published in Placitas.  Alamosa Books had a memorial reading for him here in Albuquerque in January.  The event description gives a brief description of the life of this fascinating character and wonderful poet/song writer.

My First Guitar

(a short story)

My stepfather bought me my first guitar
from a wandering bum who wanted a drink
more than another song.  It was scratched
and chipped and cracked across the face.
He thought it a great joke but
regretted it later when I stopped caring
about school, about jobs, about anything
but the music which I absorbed
from the Grande Olde Opry
every Saturday night.  One night
whiskey crazy he smashed the radio
against the wall and chased me out of the house.
I hid in a rabbit hutch and listened
to his screaming till silence came
and I knew he had fallen, limp and heavy
on the bed.  The guitar came next of course
He chopped it to pieces on a stump
in front of the house and although it was a year
before I left home, I walked away inside then
as he stood with the afternoon sun on his axe
and the pieces of my guitar all over the yard.

    The last time I played for him
    He wavered on the edge of death
    his teeth falling out
    his body a frame of skin on bones.
    He invited the neighbors over.
    "listen to my boy play," he said.

Growing old and leaking

Growing old and leaking
piss and blood and snot we're
drying up like some old weed
in Autumn, fragile thing
about to crumple and break.
Still, dreams, ideas and melodies
come to haunt us and words
fall into melancholy stanzas
on the disintegrating pages
of the old notebook of our lives
in a splash of sunlight
on the table.

Does it get better before worse
or worse before better when
better is understood to be
death?  As sight grows dim
and things spin around us we've got to hang on
to the wheel as long as we can.  Don't bail out
hang onto the goddamn wheel.

Hang on.

Views: 238

Comment by Margaret Randall on April 29, 2012 at 8:29am

Something deep inside always makes me recoil at poems or other texts that romanticize the drunk or drugged out artist. I know these social diseases have profound roots, and not only among poets. These are good poems. The lines: "although it was a year / before I left home, I walked away inside then / as he stood with the afternoon sun on his axe / and the pieces of my guitar all over the yard" are perfect in telling the story of how a child, in this case Kell, inherits without even wanting to, a culture that is cruel and destructive. May Kell's spirit rest in peace.

Comment by Dee Cohen on April 29, 2012 at 6:36pm

These poems have found loveliness in their brutality. To me, that's the mark of a true artist, working within the reality of what has been handed to them in life. These are his personal metaphors and they come across with great honesty. I'm especially touched by the second poem- a no nonsense look at impending death, the need to hang on, hang on. He hung on and kept writing. A strong voice now gone. D

Comment by Grumpy on April 30, 2012 at 3:43pm

Growing Old and Leaking - I just flat out cried while reading that. 

Comment by cathyray on April 30, 2012 at 8:38pm

I'm with Grumpy & Ben but the "listen to my boy play" really got me. 

Comment by larry goodell on May 2, 2012 at 11:50am

do see the Kell Robertson Memorial (about 40 pages) of our own Malpais Review (Winter 2011-12) for Kell poems and lots of good appreciations of his life & work . . . 

Comment by Merimee Moffitt on May 6, 2012 at 8:24am

wow--I wudda liked this guy.  Love his poem, old and leaking--now I'll read the other.

Comment by Merimee Moffitt on May 6, 2012 at 8:26am

". . . First Guitar" is a deep and sad story of too many gone mad with the drink.  hard, impossible paradox.  beautiful poem.

Comment by John Kelly on May 6, 2012 at 10:43am

Just came across this blog and these poems. I'm not a poet..I do other things, maybe almost poetic or maybe contrived.  I think many of us are unaware of how we die, if we don't simply power off unexpectedly: rich or poor, drunk or sober, drooling or fit, enlightened at the end, zonked in a hospital..or in front of some TV or computer. 


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