Exit, Stage Left by Robert L. Penick

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Exit, Stage Left, by Robert L. Penick
Exit, Stage Left
Copyright 2018 by Robert L. Penick
Cover photo by Dusty Goodwin

“Penick is gritty. Like the photographer who finds beauty in abandoned houses and cracked surfaces, his work makes the reader appreciate the sweat, dust and failure we brush against, then turn our minds from. He is the tour-guide of the ignored. He demands a broadening of our humanity and he does so with hope, precision, and humility.”

—Cliff Wieck
author of Hagiography and Bestiary
Poet Bio:
Robert L. Penick
Sample Poems:
Riddle        The Crushes of Old Men        Exit, Stage Left

Robert L. Penick

Robert L. Penick The poetry and prose of Robert L. Penick has appeared in over 150 different literary journals, including The Hudson Review, The Haight-Ashbury Literary Review, and The Carolina Quarterly. His previous books include Blue Forms: Selected Poems 1990-1998 (Chiron Review Press, 1999), Bottle of Night (Hemispherical Press, 2004), and Rain, a Bottle of Wine, a Knife (Microbe Press, Belgium, 2007). The former editor of Chance Magazine, he now publishes Ristau: A Journal of Being. He lives in Louisville, Kentucky.

More of his work can be found at www.theartofmercy.net



I am holding a secret in my right hand.
At night, when I do not sleep, I push it
beneath the bed, trapping it between
the mattress and the floor.
The best place for it, usually,
is the back seat of the car, where I can
forget it, leave it, let it age and yellow
in the sun.

Once I mailed it to Madagascar
and it was returned, festooned with
a rainbow of pretty stamps and tape.

Wherever I travel, it arrives
moments before me.
Its mere presence leaves me
bluer than death.

Copyright ©2018 Robert L. Penick

The Crushes of Old Men

The young woman at the bank
has cropped black hair. A cross
usually hangs from her neck.
She might be 23. Or 37, but
her brown eyes are innocent
and kind. Sometimes drunk,
I will bumble through
my transaction, and she waits
as I insist on reciting my
account number from memory.
It's my rear-guard against senility,
to pull those ten digits from the fog.

Money changes hands
and I leave.

But I think of her as I drive
to the next transaction, the way
her face looks hopeful
at the monitor, as if she wants
my balance to be more
than I expect.

That's what we all want in life,
isn’t it?

I think she wants that for me.

Copyright ©2018 Robert L. Penick

Exit, Stage Left

My mad sprint across so many calendars
will end one day. Likely I will see it
coming from kilometers away:
The fall to the worn carpet,
ragged breathing,
staring at a fixed point until
it collapses like a star and disappears.

I will go out with a schoolboy's smirk
upon my face, knowing the birds
will chirp and carry on each spring
and the great wheel of pain
will roll on without my frail shoulder
guiding it. Hearts will beat
bright as cardinals while
big monster life stamps in circles
and I lie vacant
in my grave.

Copyright ©2018 Robert L. Penick