At the Grave of The Fabulous Moolah

by Hastings Hensel

Greenlawn Cemetery, Columbia, SC

Sick of being called a poet for simply writing poetry
              and wandering in graveyards on sunny Saturdays

like today when a wind blows off the windup
              of your punch, I should like to say today I am retiring

from poetry, effective immediately at the end of this poem,
              but that, going out, I have always wanted to write

a standing-at-the-grave poem because what could possibly
              be more symbolic of retirement than the stillness

of headstones—me out walking and the dead lying down?
              Poetry is a silly thing, so small, and who could imagine

the crowd at a poetry reading yelling, “You ain’t shit, Hastings!”
              the way the crowd did in Madison Square Garden, in 1989,

when in black faux-leather boots you stomped Leilani Kai the Hawaiian
              until the announcer, clearly in love with you,

announced, “She gets away with murder!” But how else to heel—
              to be the one every one loves to hate, risking it all for the sake

of a fake, histrionic art—broken ankle, cracked rib,
              or even, hell, death? Except seeing now how I will never equal that,

I quit. Better to sell insurance, or tend small herbs
              in the garden, or watch children grow old, and the reruns on television.

HASTINGS HENSEL is the author of a full-length poetry volume, Winter Inlet (Unicorn, 2015), which earned the Unicorn Press First Book Award, and of a chapbook, Control Burn (2011), which won of the Iron Horse Literary Review Single-Author Competition. The recipient of the 2014-2015 South Carolina Arts Commission Fellowship in Poetry, his poems appear in storySouthThe Greensboro ReviewCave Wall32 Poems, and elsewhere. He teaches at Coastal Carolina University, where he is the poetry editor of Waccamaw, and lives with his wife, Lee, in Murrells Inlet, South Carolina.