November 15, 2008

Review by Janis Lull

OLD MAN LAUGHING
by Robert King

Ghost Road Press
5303 E. Evans Ave #309
Denver, CO 80222
ISBN 0-9789456-3-8
2007, 76 pp., $13.05
www.ghostroadpress.com

Robert King’s Old Man Laughing is divided into three parts: “Old,” “Man,” and “Laughing.” The epigraph comes from a poem by Shih-Te: “an old man laughs at himself when he falters,” which also describes the gently self-mocking tone of King’s book. The first section begins with a look back at the poet’s happy childhood, “What It Was Like Those Days”:

Even the dead, I thought then,
grinning as I biked around town,
were happy in their own dead way.

The “I” of these poems continues to roam around town and (especially) country as an adult, in a car instead of on his bike. He finds himself “West of Oglalla, I-80, by the feedlot,” (“West of Singapore”), “east of Cheyenne and Eden,” (“The Singing of Bob and Charlene”), driving past “shattering yellow butterflies,” (“The Whole Time”), or down the Missouri Valley (“Driving Home, Wherever That Is”). Often, he’s listening to his car radio, skipping from station to station as the signals fade and swell:

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