Frank Rutledge

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Clothed in August Skin - 2005

Clothed in August Skin

Purchase at Bandmecca

Many of us here at the Cropcircle Collective have been waiting a LONG time for the next release of Frank's poetry. Although he may not consider them "official" releases, he did publish two other chapbooks; Listen Said the Storyteller and a book of haikus called Tiny Lanterns. Until now, there has not been a complete sampling of his more recent and mature style. This release is definitely cause for celebration.

Frank used to come up with song title ideas for albums that were never released. From these strange and fascinating song titles came metaphors, from the metaphors came stanzas, and from the stanzas came poems. With Clothed in August Skin, he has managed to simplify, or to distill his ideas without losing any of their magic.

I should never expect to hear
when the mind is all chatter racket
a blue A.M. radio dialed in between stations
feeding upon ghost voice

Frank's is the voice of the inner world of the midwest. His interest in all things unseen permeates this work. There is a nice and natural mix here of Buddhist philosophy, chronicles of the everyday, and love poems. His concentration is on the here and now, in living in the moment. His spirituality and humility comes through in this volume. He speaks with great respect of the nuns who can "swim upstream against the current" and even his cat who puts him to shame with "the best damn immitation of Buddha any human being could ever attempt."

There are clever lines here as well, "people who think everything tastes like chicken are the downfall of mankind." In Remember When we get a taste of what I call the classic Rutledge nostalgia (see Wizards of Sandwich Illinois in the poems section of this website for another example):

Summer used to last a lifetime then
we were proud to be complete idiots
dressed in junk food stained overalls
giddy with the new found ability to fire off
curse words as quick as
army machine guns

After a History of Being Alone, there is a deep appreciation for the love of his wife and an everyday domesticity. It's like the ending of Fargo when Francis McDomand's artist husband holds her close and they realize they don't have it so bad compared to most people. Frank is still the dreamer, whiling away the evenings in a good book, but now with the comfort of another to hold close and to just know she's there.

What really impressed me the most about Clothed in August Skin was the completeness and power of the last two poems Our Disappearing Act and End Piece:

We are two ghosts
who still believe in touch
trapped in a haunted house
set for demolition...
we'll explode free
and shower down
on the mortal world

End Piece finishes with an admonition to savor what good can be found in the world. Religious zealots often justify destroying the earth in the greedy pursuit of a perfection that may not even exist. It's a lazy kind of spirituality that allows us to close our eyes to the beauty among the rubble. It's easy to relieve oneself of responsibility for making this world work. When we see things in black and white, we don't have to think as hard, and consider the grays. What a waste to throw away this life and all the beauty it has to offer, regardless of whether or not there is an afterlife. Getting wrapped up in a copy of Clothed in August Skin is certainly a worthwhile way to spend a few hours of one's precious time on this planet.