Kathleen Driskell’s Next Door To The Dead (University Press of Kentucky)
Living next door to a grave yard, as Driskell does in a converted country church just outside Louisville, is a good way to glean insights into Kentucky’s historical culture. While many poems in this volume are profound ruminations, some of the shorter ones are delightfully pithy.
One “Epitaph,” for example, reads, “He Never Killed a Man That Didn’t Need Killing.” Another is for Dave, who chased a bear into a cave, “oh, bless his heart,” meaning poor Dave “really wasn’t all that smart.”
In “The Death of the Snake Handler,” a dying preacher has the snake’s head cut off “to show the snake / that in the end, he was but a worm.” But the snake gets the last word: “then surrender please, / only a worm was needed / to bring you to your knees.”
And then, for the more profound among us, there’s the slim sea trout swimming just beneath the surface of the Irish Sea, who from the cliff above appears to be twisting in church glass as if “newly buried, / not yet admitted.” It makes one wonder: What God looks down from on high waiting to digest the dead?