t. kilgore splake | life, death, poet trees

3 06 2009

Poetry Dispatch No. 284 | June 3, 2009


t. kilgore splake

norbert blei

Consider this a variation on that continuing theme I began some weeks ago: The Art & The Artists of Self Destruction—this being #4.

Those of us who know and love and read and keep up with all that goes on in the mind and spirit of our friend t.k. splake, exiled (happily) high above the rest of us Midwesterners, up there on Michigan’s Keweenaw Peninsula, recognize his voice upon the printed page immediately. Theme, style, movement, word choice, line breaks…we don’t need to see his adopted nom de plume on the page, he’s there. Up there on the cliffs. That’s ole t.k. talkin’ to us—the lonesome graybeard, wailing engagingly from his high terrain, calling us all to attention again: Stand still. Gather all the good inside of you. But don’t stand too still—you’ll be gone over the edge soon enough. May even decide to depart on your own terms.

Those are not white spaces between the lines of t.k.’s poems. They’re mostly gray. Time taking its toll in bad heartbeats. Then there’s that unsettling gun again…the American writer’s rosary–handle, barrel, trigger, bullets … handlebarreltriggerbullets…making far too many appearances in the bard’s tapping fingers as he mounts another last stand, another perspective, the odds against him, staring down his old foe “rat-bastard Time”…one more time.

So first, this, a new splake poem, “lia”…

Followed by “the rest of the story”. The tree of life…his tree of poetry.
Something I asked ol splaker to write about the tree for the sake of us all.



by t. kilgore splake

quiet black-haired girl
italia mama’s daughter
name meaning “industrious”
babette’s Saturday waitress
serving conglomerate cafe lattes
taking breakfast orders
school rubber-stamp print
tgif gym dance proof
graybeard poet aging dreams
bo-ho beat young romance
hard throbby flesh
blue viagra rush
geezer rock melodies
elvis “fats” domino chuck berry
camel’s twenty-five cents
pennies in cigarette machine pack
hitch-hiking rides
“on the road” miles
not flying here there
aging poet
creative brain-skull cavity
having to write
only few years left
before alzheimer loss
death’s shit smell
.357 trigger finger
lia’s boyfriend
growling tranny muffler
rusted rocker panels
foam dice real-view mirror
wearing “jock-logo” clothes
chasing fun games laughter
waiting next craze
twitter myspace youtube facebook
waky tobaccy euphoria
wrinkled zig-zag papers
girl too young
knowing real ghosts
believing in god
some afterlife beyond
never understanding
old man CLIFFS summit
imagining mysterious train far below
close enough to feel
eva marie saint
going “north by northwest”
mineral range steam engine
hauling copper ores
tamarack location
torch lake smelters
young metro miss
saying “goodbye”
soft gentle voice adding
“have a good weekend”

the poet tree


t. kilgore splake

the “poet tree” is located on the summit of the CLIFFS, about ten miles north of calumet, michigan, in the keweenaw peninsula. the CLIFFS are the location of the old CLIFFS copper mining activities that i wrote about in my the winter diary notebook memoirs.

my idea for the splake “poet tree” came from a photograph of a similar poet tree that existed in berkeley, california that i saw in an old copy of the poetry flash literary magazine.

quite often i hike in and climb the CLIFFS to the old cobblestone smokestack on the summit in order to reflect upon my ‘self,’ as well as renew my focus on rilke’s dictum “live the question.” on each of my trekkings to the CLIFFS top i carry along a new poem or three and the occasional art-drawing to attach to the “poet tree.” at present, the “poet tree” has a tibetan prayer flag, some henry denander art drawings, and short splake works as well as poems by other writers.

in the nine years of “poet tree” history twice it has been vandalized. i believe that the most likely suspects of the damage are michigan technological students with a six-pack of beer and very little regard for personal creativity. it is interesting that the one poem that survived a “poet tree” burning was my favorite richard brautigan writing: “we stopped at perfect days” from rommel drives on deep into egypt.

We stopped at perfect days
and got out of the car.
The wind glanced at her hair.
It was as simple as that.
I turned to say something—

the “poet tree” survives each of the passing michigan upper peninsula seasons. the autumn storms and winds weaken the paintings and poems. most of the work is lost to the winter “season of long white” blizzards. however, come the spring, like many old forest trees and graying poets, the “poet tree’s” artistry has vanished.

this year i climbed to the CLIFFS summit and gave the fresh beginning to the “poet tree” the last week in april after the keweenaw peninsula winter snows had melted. during my “first dawn” hiking, i enjoyed several new early morning colors – light cyan and soft salmon – original hues not like other colors on the artist’s palette.

after renewing the “poet tree’s” materials – art cards, poems, and a prayer flag – while trekking back down the CLIFFS path to retrieve my tranny, i enjoyed the spring love song of wild birds trilling their poor hearts dry.

these frequent splake visits to the “poet tree” and CLIFFS sanctuary take me away from the routines of human experience and civilization for a short moment in time. the surprise of many new wilderness colors and musical sounds gives me a quiet reminder that my time on earth is short and the words for a new poem are waiting.

RECENT WORKS by t. kilgore splake: THE WINTER NOTEBOOK (2009), THE WINTER DIARY (2009), Angst Productions, P.O. Box 508 Calumet, Michigan 49913. splakeatchartermidotnet