A city I’ve never seen, though Em went once.
She brought back the River Walk on a shirt
and, for V, a shot glass, which kicked
off her collection.
There’s the Alamo and that’s
a bit of downtown. Not photographs, Sweetie,
but like cartoons. The confetti in the air
means holiday when everyone is happy.
For months, V made it her only cup
and washed it so much the scenes faded
In the three years left to her,
Em brought back a glass from every city
she visited, a practice V and I
can’t stop continuing. Twenty nine now sit
behind San Antonio on the shelf, though
the doors have been knocked flat and ashes
glint the glass on the outskirts of town.
Some lines we still lack the heart to cross.
Yellow of fire and fear. I havebecome a violent man, seducedby every shadow of your shape.
One half week ago and earlyfor the service so the childrenmight warm up in the loft (your daughter,
tall among them, and, at the piano,a woman that excites me leading themalong), I reckoned them up,
the stretched days I’ve been forcedto see alone. For fifteen months the worldhas been all background noise and, for that,
I want someone to thank. Next morning,I left for these mountains, unthinkinguntil the smoke sparked me from myself:
clean-up fires in the backyards of the valleys—notes on a clef—neighbors rushing inthe new season with beer and jokes
half-heard over the crackle and hiss, rakingthem with a toe or propped against oneof the ringing rocks. For what did I
come here? What melody of cluesdid I hope might lead me back to whoI was—amnesiac who can remember
only every hurtful thing. The nightbefore I left the home we thought we’d shareuntil we forgot ourselves and were
forgotten, I struck a man to the streetfor almost nothing, and felt nothingwhen his head bounced from the curb or when
he staggered upright (Were those his friendsbehind him breaking into a run?);nothing when that cab swooped in to whisk
me home as if its driver were a godwhose bright eyes flickered with his mother’s will.As if. I’ve spent three days here. The fires
still smolder, but no one gathers near.My love, your death will always bethe altar on which I choose to burn.
A native of Philippi, West Virginia, Mike Smith is a graduate of UNC-G, Hollins College, and the University of Notre Dame. He is the author of And There Was Evening and There Was Morning, a collection of essays forthcoming from WTAW Press in September. Mike Smith has published three collections of poetry, including Multiverse, a collection of two anagrammatic cycles. His translation of the first part of Goethe’s Faust was published by Shearsman Books in 2012, and he is co-editor of the anthology, The Mint’s Invitation: Contemporary Chinese Short-Shorts in Translation, forthcoming from Columbia University Press in August. Together with software engineer Brandon Nelson, Mike created and curates The Zombie Poetry Project at zombiepoetryproject.com.
BMP Celebrates National Poetry Month
The theme of teaching and learning poetry, and our emphasis on student poets, speaks directly to the action of poetry in our country and global community. Never has the education of our students been so threatened, and never has truth been more challenged than in the current political climate. The truth emerges through education and the resistance and questions of our youngest generation, and it is their lead we absolutely must follow if they are to live in a society that fosters their achievements, liberation, and justice. Truth emerges through poetry as well — poetry bears witness to what truths seem impossible to speak any other way. Its constraints limit the temptation to misconstrue, obscure, and bury.