A few weeks ago, I was trying to track down a poem by David Wright. It was a darkly comical piece relating to retirement and reflecting on King Lear.
I found it relatively easily, though one blog claimed that he was both deaf and dead—dead since 1994 and deaf, presumably, before that. My latest conversation with him reveals him to be neither.
Possibly even more exciting than finding the poem was the epiphany of realizing that the poem was now in a collection of Shakespeare-related poems by modern poets. I was thrilled, and I ordered the book immediately. Readers may know that I taught a course called "Modern Shakespearean Fiction" and that I was looking for poems just like these.
This week, I'm highlighting the best poems from the collection, starting with the one that enabled me to find the others.
Lines on Retirement, after Reading Lear
for Richard Pacholski
Avoid storms. And retirement parties.
You can’t trust the sweetnesses your friends will
offer, when they really want your office,
which they’ll redecorate. Beware the still
untested pension plan. Keep your keys. Ask
for more troops than you think you’ll need. Listen
more to fools and less to colleagues. Love your
youngest child the most, regardless. Back to
storms: dress warm, take a friend, don’t eat the grass,
don’t stand near tall trees, and keep the yelling
down—the winds won’t listen, and no one will
see you in the dark. It’s too hard to hear
you over all the thunder. But you’re not
Lear, except that we can’t stop you from what
you’ve planned to do. In the end, no one leaves
the stage in character—we never see
the feather, the mirror held to our lips.
So don’t wait for skies to crack with sun. Feel
the storm’s sweet sting invade you to the skin,
the strange, sore comforts of the wind. Embrace
your children’s ragged praise and that of friends.
Go ahead, take it off, take it all off.
Run naked into tempests. Weave flowers
into your hair. Bellow at cataracts.
If you dare, scream at the gods. Babble as
if you thought words could save. Drink rain like cold
beer. So much better than making theories.
We’d all come with you, laughing, if we could.
Links: Wright's poem at Poets.org. Wright's blog, which focuses on ekphrastic poetry.