Poet-In-School appointed Poet Laureate of Washington State
We are pleased that a dedicated participant to the Skagit River Poetry Project, Kathleen Flenniken, is now Washington State’s Poet Laureate for 2012-2014. More information about this role can be found on the Humanities Washington website.
Read more about Kathleen at her website. Her recent publication Plume has been selected for the Pacific Northwest Poetry Series and will be published in February 2012.
Enjoy one of her poems below which was featured on the Writer’s Almanac in 2010.
by Kathleen Flenniken
Gil tells you his story in the company truck
on your first job under his wing.
He cuts the engine and pulls
to the shoulder, which is alarming.
He’s a big man who talks rough all day
to drillers, but you know he’s kind—
everybody in the office says so. Gil’s
a sweetheart, they say without elaboration.
He rolls to a stop and waits,
which prepares you, I think; it wipes
the fake smile off your face. He clears
his throat, then it streams like a steady well—
that lazy drive home from vacation,
his wife napping in the camper
before she and their daughter switch,
his careful introduction of the boy
who has drifted an entire lifetime
into their oncoming lane. It’s beautiful
really, the way they crash into the boy’s
car, how it parts the boy’s curtain
of long blond hair and death anoints him
with a dot of blood on his forehead.
A single hubcap bounds like a tin deer
across the highway. Gil’s frantic wife
pries the camper open to find their dead girl
whose eyes are closed as though
she’s dozing through a horror movie.
Then silence. Gil turns expectantly to you.
As you sit speechless, he’ll nod
at whatever sound or breath escapes you.
He starts the truck with a roar
and you’re driving again to the field.
All afternoon he babies you with the pipes,
the pump, and the rig. And when you return,
the whole office comes out to greet you,
touching your shoulder, saying your name.
“Gil’s Story” by Kathleen Flenniken, from Famous. © University of Nebraska Press, 2006. Reprinted with permission.