Exquisite Duet: Kaite Hillenbrand and Ken Robidoux

the-duetExquisite Duet (formerly Exquisite Quartet) is not so much a composition between two writers, but rather something created within the murky midlands of each author’s mind, yet set off by the same first sentence. Meg Tuite chooses two writers each month and gives them a first sentence to start with and a 250-word limit to finish an exquisitely mesmerizing story or poem. These duet-dueling writers will craft two completely different cosmos that have rotated, pitched, and blasted from the depths of their cerebral cortex to the twitching nerve endings of their digits onto dueling keyboards and separate screens until their sublime duet is prepared to see the light of an audience.


 “stragglers edge in on either side of my joy”

by Ken Robidoux


On the job and in demand, he’s the guy
who paints instructional placards at sites of interest
mostly in and around the greater continental US.

Scratched deep into one of Christo
& Jean-Claude’s Gates running
along Wagoner Cove, while doing
touch-up work on a GAZEBO
sign, he found it, as he had in ’91 on the Maestro
Two’s westernmost umbrella, and again
stenciled in Sharpie on the swing-set at Graceland,
which an English Professor once told him, over
hot lemon whiskeys, was a tired old trope.

Scrawled onto page six of a Barrett-Jackson
auto auction program found under foot: McCormick-
Stillman Railroad Park, Scottsdale, AZ.
And again, gouged into the sidewall of car three, Montezuma’s
Revenge: Knott’s Berry Farm. Buena Park, CA.
Niagara Falls: the Canadian Side on the overlook
handrail. Space Needle: Seattle, WA, on a MEN’s
room stall wall:

“stragglers edge in on either side of my joy”

It was in Arches at North Window near Moab,
through which Turret Arch is magnificent at dusk,
when the tag moved, when it changed.
The rusty-red megalith was left pristine
but under the space where his sign slid,
under the protective Plexiglas covering
where he was to install his completed project,
on a spot no one but him would ever see:

“stragglers edge in on either side of my joy…
…and still I wait for you.”


Stragglers Edge Inn

By Kaite Hillenbrand


On either side of my joy you
set and strike, hawk-eye and caulk,
safe and bay the world for us,
alone together. We punks,
ex-pats, bunker by the lake,
wide-eyed, listening: helpless,
helpless, helpless. The quetzal
is caged. The book is closed.
Montani semper liberi is a flawed
memory of a dead language.
Under mountain shade,
we dig holes for marigolds.
We slow-roast marshmallows
in the yard, firelight licking our faces.
Here in the Milky Way
wrapped around each other,
we don’t feel too small,
ourselves not even a star.
Frogs honk incessantly
like dried rubber bicycle horns.
Come morning, a Carolina wren
loads moss into the porch birdhouse.
We wait for the day mama and papa wren
dive-bomb a few chipmunks,
then sing the coaxing song
to their feathered chicks, as you
to me to you, come fly. I will keep you
safe always. The wind for us
is a fulfilled wish. It’s okay. Let go.


Ken Robidoux is the Publisher and founding Editor-in-Chief of Connotation Press. He is currently working in preproduction as the producer and director of a new internet food and music show focusing on the Appalachian region of the US, and teaching literature in West Virginia. He lives to make Kaite, Hannah, and Lily smile, and he likes flowers, sunsets, and girls who aren’t afraid to cry.

Kaite Hillenbrand has been with Connotation Press since before it launched, and she is honored to have served as its Poetry Editor for most of the journal’s existence. She has an MA in Literature, an MFA in Poetry, and a JD. She is a labor and employment lawyer at Steptoe & Johnson PLLC. Her two girls, who are two of the most amazing girls in the universe, are living in California. She lives in a house by a lake with her two boys: a crazy anarchy bunny named Sam and her true love and fiancé, Ken. Soon, their two girls will visit. Hooray!


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