It Was the Orange Persimmon of the Sun
by Louie Skipper
IT WAS THE ORANGE PERSIMMON OF THE SUN is an "in your face" confrontation with the mystery of our being here on earth in the early 21st century by a poet who, quietly and carefully over the past 35 years, has been carving his niche as our contemporary master of the extended meditation, the elegy and the book-length poem.
From Deaths that Travel with the Weather and The Fourth Watch of the Night to his most recent The Work Ethic of the Common Fly, Louie Skipper has expanded the focus of his vision, which asserts itself most fully in It Was the Orange Persimmon of the Sun. The book is a celebration of the extraordinary and the foibles of common man as well as the masters. Skipper's language carries us among the local butcher and doting aunts to Yeats and Dante, Rilke, Neruda and Robert Lowell; from Marcel Marceau and Nijinsky to Martin Luther King and "Bear" Bryant, invoking their presence via a unique and sometimes wildly off-beat sensibility.
Deeply reflective but immersed in the things of this world and those not so far behind us -- the hourglass, "fat from candles," the lynching tree, and vintage automobiles pictured on the calendars of yesteryear -- Skipper travels back and forth in time and place, from the Alabama of the 1950s to the present day and beyond, from Dr. King's Dexter Avenue Baptist Church and Oakmulgee Creek to the Sea of Gallilee, constellations and black holes into a spirited future joined with the ancient Chinese poet ". .. . limping along / too late to use on himself the wisdom he has accrued. . . ."
An Episcopal priest, Louie Skipper lives in Montgomery, Alabama, where he is the Episcopal college chaplain as well as Vicar of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in western Dallas County. It Was the Orange Persimmon of the Sun is his fourth book of poems.
-- from “Before”
It was the orange persimmon of the sun,
the flesh of sun and melons,
pears rotting on the ground
when the summer sun arrived like a child,
like this waking child, every day a new life
left out in the sun
like stones or bread.
I remember the great composers, their heads, those unblinking mutes,
on the slave block of my weekly piano lesson. Half a century ago,
at ten I came to nothing. Mrs. Riley, patient as a nurse,
sat beside me on the bench as I made the piano suffer,
the gentle eyes of Mozart straight ahead,
Brahms lost in thought, maybe humming to himself.
It was Beethoven alone who swallowed back
such monstrous violence,
his arms folded invisibly in rage and song,
then--once I quit and turned to the door and the sun--
raising his fingers above the keys,
throwing the rest of his death down on the cool silent room.
I never know what to do before your grave,
guilty of the little time I stay,
everyone on their own,
sealed by death.
Too hard to be a living garden
between the bus stop
and the water tower:
the only part of town still flourishing.
What grips these grounds is memory, love
that will not again begin to breathe.
I stand alone,
only an octave above your stare,
this place I fail, these common prayers,
a stone to be visited because my father is here.