HENRY, WALT, AND BRAM
Bram Stoker, whose suppressed homosexuality
is implicit in the horror with which women
are regarded in Dracula, wrote long, gushing
letters to Walt Whitman as a young man, praising
the poet’s understanding of “men like ourselves.”
The older writer responded with bewildered
kindness, flattered perhaps by the adulation,
but rightly suspicious of its callow sincerity.
The two never actually met; shortly thereafter,
Stoker fell under the spell of the flamboyant
Shakespearian actor Sir Henry Irving, who
sported a deep black velvet cape, and strode
through gaslight with preternatural assurance,
while the stage manager fluttered around him
like a moth drawn to an incinerating flame.
The rest is buried between the lines, interred
in the “decrepit earth” of the nineteenth century.
No consummation ever occurred that we know.
Twelve novels and three short story collections
were disregarded, unmentioned in any obituary.
THROUGH THE WINDOW
Raindrops on cold glass
trace the memory of light
THE CHORD IN HIS BRAIN
Dad’s condition grows steadily worse,
the situation somehow unforeseen despite
months of deathbed vigils followed by apparent
rallying—although these miraculous recoveries
are always temporary. Tonight, on the phone,
Mom says the hospice nurse anticipates
no further improvement, a steep decline
is not unusual when the end finally nears.
What’s different this time, she tells me,
is that his body, after long illness,
is at last fairly healthy, but his mind
emptying rapidly, all recognition gone:
the chord in his brain reduced to white noise,
wind whistling through a broken window,
or the radiant wail of solar flares
in the spaces between stars.
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).Two poems from this newest book have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize.