THE STARS WITHHOLD THEIR COMFORT
i.m.: Patricia Lewis Smith, 1953-2005
Late August afternoons, the pastel light
Discloses a horizon like smudged chalk—
A few stars might be visible tonight
Should I decide to brave the heat and walk
Out to the margin where the unseen ocean,
Reduced to subtle thunder in the darkness,
Hints at the soft duplicity of motion,
At forces too profound to grasp or harness.
My late wife sought some solace in the sea
When daily pressures grew too great to bear;
Above the Golden Gate we set her free,
Her ashes spreading shadows on cold air.
The stars withhold their comfort now, sallow
Behind the skyline’s green, anemic glow.
THAT FIRST BIRTHDAY ALONE
Tomorrow, Mom is turning eighty-eight:
Now that Dad’s gone, an ordinary day.
Not that he would have noticed anyway—
He wasn’t much inclined to celebrate.
Dad never did learn to anticipate
The consequences of his thoughtlessness;
You’d call him “married to his work,” I guess;
Grudging concessions came too few, too late.
But all the same, that first birthday alone
Can be a painful milestone—I know—
A vacancy embedded in the bone.
My wife Pat passed away ten years ago;
Someday, perhaps, I’ll finally move on;
I’d have to say it seems unlikely, though.
Our Cape Cod in New Jersey was the showpiece
For the development, when it was built—
This meant we had a spacious yard with trees,
A creek that was, in summer, mostly silt.
It meant the nearby houses were more distant
Than usual in that bland suburban sprawl,
And I have little doubt it also meant
The neighbors barely heard us, if at all.
But every morning at five forty-four,
One minute before my alarm clock rang,
My father nearly battered down my door,
And launched into his matinal harangue.
Had I not silenced it at once, I fear
The consequences would have been severe.
Raised in New Jersey, Robert Lavett Smith has lived since 1987 in San Francisco, where for the past sixteen years he has worked as a Special Education Paraprofessional. He has studied with Charles Simic and the late Galway Kinnell. He is the author of several chapbooks and three full-length poetry collections, the most recent of which is The Widower Considers Candles (Full Court Press, 2014). He has recently been working on an new collection of sonnets—his second foray into the form—which is entitled Sturgeon Moon, and which will hopefully be published by Full Court Press at the end of the year.