Friday, September 18, 2015

Robert Lavett Smith- Three Poems


            i.m.: Patricia Lewis Smith, 1953-2005

It’s said the dead reach out to us in dreams,
But in the decade since you passed away
Your absence lingers like a stale bouquet;
You’ve made no move to contact me, it seems.
My days are frayed along the hidden seams
Like stitches torn from smudged September sky
Here where the foliage won’t turn or die,
Long drought has withered rivers, shrunken streams.
Then, as I struggled simply to survive,
Last night I dreamed you were alive again!
My heart was empty, nothing left to give,
A victim of the numbness rushing in—
Resolving to be kinder, more attentive,
I woke alone, past hope of being forgiven.


On a late summer evening such as this—
Deep in September, when the weather’s warm—
One sometimes feels inclined to reminisce
About the times before life meant us harm.
There’s no cause for immediate alarm;
We’ve grown inured to loss in recent years;
But reassurances that would disarm
Increasingly must bow to strange new fears.
And just at sunset, something disappears
Along with the last remnants of the day—
Dead constellations glitter far and fierce—
Precisely what’s gone missing we can’t say.
We cannot help but shiver at such moments,
Though ours is not an age inclined to omens.


As curator of Ichthyology,
Dad sometimes found himself in the position
To welcome visitors of some distinction—
And, in at least one instance, royalty.
This is the incident a friend related:
Apparently the Crown Prince of Japan,
Who spoke no English, was a tiny man
Whose majesty Dad quietly deflated.
Arriving with a bevy of attendants,
He stood among the jars of pickled fish
Attired in a splendid purple sash,
The very soul of pomp and circumstance.
The story goes that Dad addressed him thus:
“I’m honored to have met Your Royal Minus.”

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.

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