Charles Fort is the author of six books of poetry and ten chapbooks including: The Town Clock Burning-St. Andrews Press – We Did Not Fear the Father-Red Hen Press – Darvil, Prose Poems Book 1-St. Andrews Press – We Did Not Fear the Father-Carnegie Mellon University Press, reprint, Contemporary Classic – Frankenstein was a Negro, Prose Poems Book 2-Backwaters Press – Mrs. Belladonna’s Supper Club Waltz, Book 3-Backwaters Press. His works appear in 39 anthologies and The Best American Poetry, 2001, 2003, and 2016.
Fort is Distinguished Emeritus Professor at the University of Nebraska at Kearney and Founder of the Wendy Fort Foundation – Theater of Fine Arts. Poetry Honors and Awards: Yaddo Fellow 2019. MacDowell Fellow 1996. The Writer’s Voice Poetry Award “On Being Invisible” – For Ralph Ellison Judge – Grace Pale 1996. Individual Artist Award in Poetry Connecticut Commission on the Arts manuscript-in-progress Hollow Ground 1992. Poetry Society of America Mary Carolyn Davis Memorial Award “Born on A River” – For Poem Best Set To Music 1990—Libretto “Born On A River” Commissioned Poem Thirty Piece Orchestra and Choir Wilmington, North Carolina’s 250th Anniversary Thalian Hall 1989. Randall Jarrell Poetry Prize “The Writer At His Desk” Judge – Fred Chappell 1985. Fort has completed 330 villanelles. His first novel is forthcoming: The Last Black Hippie in Connecticut – from his website.
Fort received the Honorary Doctorate of Human Letters, honoris causa from Siena Heights University and Faculty Scholar Awards from the University of Nebraska at Kearney and Southern Connecticut State University, and he is represented on the North Carolina Literary Map. Fort founded the Creative writing program at UNC-Wilmington. He was awarded Reynolds Chair of Creative Writing at University of Nebraska at Kearney.
This Prose Poem chronicles his experience in Nebraska – viewing the landscape, his family’s living in Nebraska.
He saw a purple light on the horizon of earth, a thimble of lilac shadow pouring into the Connecticut River. Was it the shallow breath of the Platte moving the high grass and locust wing? What kind of light had you seen falling across the harvest sky on the last day your wife ‘s life, her angelic face behind a veil of stars, all the beauty known in the world in one place somewhere in Nebraska? Had you seen a purple light between the living and the dead? Was this a miracle after dying? It was her pulse dispersing a cloud of embers into thinning air. This was a widower’s charm, a way to cobble the heart to an earthly demise and heavenly pause. It was seeing the gift of death’s apparel in the stars under a parasol of sandhill cranes whistling a mournful evening flight above your head. They landed in cornfields and ripe soil. A butterfly wing fell on your shoulder. Rainwater filled the cracked earth. You were taught this was the widower’s way. You were left with few words and two daughters. The small town of Kearney knocked on your door. They opened their own wreckage of the heart to your own. In their small offerings of small church prayer, knocked at your door, ad left good food. They gave you portions of their miniature world. It was in the good ten years of music, dance, and song of the school plays and choirs for the ghost of the world on the plains. After each performance, I placed flowers in my daughter’s small hands. Claire and Shelley’s violin, piano, choir, and theater with her head and arms and legs sticking outside a Seussical the Musical box, her head floating above the stage, and after being pulled off the cheerleading field from the state football championship game by adults, she ended with her award-winning speech at her high school graduation. Claire and Shelley wearing a Cinderella gown for the Great Plains dance and prom. He was a black mannikin in a red cloud cowboy hat, the rancher’s ball dance in snakeskin boots. Your good neighbors Ed and Kathy knew the mortal kiss too well. The local newspaper wrote you love letters. It was the story of love against the turbulent earthly waters, economic collapse, scorched landowners, and annual July 4th fireworks on Palomino Road. It was a tornado warning in purple dust rising over the river, sweeping over the calves and pigs, ice storms and high winds, river mud caught in a Nebraska stampede. You walked out of your office for the last time, closed the door, your last words written in longhand on a chalkboard behind your desk inside your university office: This was Nebraska seen in a purple light, a just and miniature world and nothing but love here tonight.
Charles reading “For Two Daughters” at East Connecticut State University, 22017.
Written by Chuck Peek
* "Nebraska Seen in a Purple Light" from "Mrs BellaDonna's Supper Club Waltz - Darvil Trilogy," The Backwaters Press 2013
* Video "For Two Daughters," East Connecticut State University, 2017
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