Robert Abbate

Robert AbbateBIO
Robert Abbate teaches English composition, creative writing, and philosophy at Rowan-Cabarrus Community College in Concord, North Carolina.  His most significant recognition in poetry came in 1982 when Carolyn Kizer selected five poems for the Katey Lehman Creative Writing Awards at Penn State University.  His poems have appeared in such journals as Alehouse, Ruah, Sanskrit, Iodine, Main Street Rag, and Kakalak: An Anthology of Carolina Poets. His first full-length poetry manuscript Courage of Straw was a finalist for the Bright Hill Press Poetry Book Contest in 2005 and a finalist for the John Ciardi Poetry Prize from BkMk Press in 2006. Robert’s poem “Tishbite Pottery Fragments” was a finalist for the 2007 James Hearst Poetry Award from the North American Review. Main Street Rag published Courage of Straw in March 2010.




Lazarus lies by the bus stop. People pass

The beggar; they look away. Do they despise

Failures who live on the dumpster’s heaped morass?

The homeless man eventually dies

And leaves a vacant bench to prove demise.

The empty spot soon fills, grief’s swelling pools

Of flowers, poems, notes, that humanize.

Kiss the leper’s lips and wrap his wounds, God’s Fools.

The poor may never find refuge from class

Strife, and reward in heaven is mere surmise.

The rich, still numb from wealth, cannot surpass

The shame they carry. Holding onto lies,

They act indifferent to the poor’s reprise.

Incessant braying breaks from Balaam’s mules:

The poor are always here; it’s no surprise.

Kiss the leper’s lips and wrap his wounds, God’s Fools.

The magpies always gather on the grass

Beside the friary, their chattered cries

Screeching and fading after evening mass.

The brown robed Capuchins would offer sighs

Of praise at day’s end, raising drinks up high

To toast the Little Poor One, whose brief rules

Of life they vowed to follow toward heaven’s prize:

Kiss the leper’s lips and wrap his wounds, God Fools.

A novice kneels with hands outstretched and eyes

Fixed upon the cross beyond the vestibule.

He recites his vows, by which he sanctifies,

Kiss the leper’s lips and wrap his wounds, God’s Fool.



Letter to Guinevere

Your Highness, how you longed to see a knight

in armor riding by the castle wall.

The sun reflecting off the helm’s a sight

to bring your focus on the curls that fall

about his shoulders. Spying from the height

you picked me then as your escort, a tall

soldier to ride along with you to find

the pathway by the stream to ease your mind.

I didn’t crack the mirror when I rode

past you, and then you knocked upon my door

asking for help. You watched me heft a load,

bolts of cloth for ladies’ gowns. The chore

made me sweat, and you had blushed and glowed.

As a musky scent wafted above the floor,

you stepped toward me to touch my shoulder’s flesh

and pulled your hair back, bared your neck’s sweet flush.

The King, away on travels through the realm,

left you alone too much. And when the tasks

you gave me ran out, I would overwhelm

you with the songs I composed. We opened casks

of wine and laughed under the courtyard elm,

toasting with our poems. Love that basks

in secret always comes to light, and hearts

bound by the marriage vows feel poison darts.

No madness of farewells for us, dear Queen.

No shame may trap you, but the will to lie,

so tell the truth to your husband. Coming clean

may spare some heartache, yet it stings the eye.

Keep well clear of the convent’s prison scene.

Don’t demean your dignity and cry

in the dust at Arthur’s feet. Unload the heap

of guilt you feel, and then you build your keep.


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