Three Poems by Bill King
High Lonesome Blue
For generations our lives were barely visible
beneath the leaves—a ceaseless green whisper
or a ridgetop’s bent refrain, the soundtrack
of our days. That music, like the weather,
has changed. Up the car-lined street another
chainsaw drowns my heart’s steady beat.
The sidewalk’s buckled. I don’t have time for leaves.
So—though in health, not sickness—a hundred suns
fall in a single afternoon: each ring a green promise
broken, a silent zero that kept on counting even
as the wheels’ white noise—of log trucks and leaf-
peepers headed for the mountains—grew into a dirge.
That’s why I don’t go until the canopy falls,
fire roads close, and you need skis or snowshoes
to pole your way to the spruce-line.
Above the blood’s heavy tattoo, you hear it—
how branches and wind make cradlesongs
of the high and lonesome blue.
Like green willows cut back, then cut
again, the surgeon’s scalpel removes each
season’s stubborn new growth, stunted
by poisonous drip. I zombie to work
and back, yet live, and in living, love
and grieve all those who came before,
who risked and lost—pounds of flesh
and good-time friends, and that one
last hope, before the end. I can’t call it
a win—what they’ve given. Time.
To scrutinize eternity—as carefully
as this wasp perched on the rounded
hill of my erasure. Forced out the vent
by the first furnace blast of the year,
she makes one tiny-footed, antennae-
twitching rotation, before flying
toward the arched forest of golden
fern just outside the window.
Trapped, she bumps from glass
to glass, seeking late autumn light.
Though frost soon rimes the grass,
and I’ve little energy to muster,
I offer the sugared lip of my coffee
cup and walk her out the door.