Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Robert Lavett Smith- Three Poems


Two months before my father passed away
I spent some time there for the holidays,
Seeing for myself what everybody says:
We cannot reach the dying, try as we may.
Emaciated, tentative and gray,
Dad shuffled through the dull hours in a daze,
Mom’s cramped apartment daunting as a maze
Where he invariably lost his way.
The ride to Denver chilled me to the bone,
Hard weather coming, highways brown with snow.
Two hours pinned in a sky like shattered stone;
I called when we made ground in San Francisco.
Dad faltered when Mom handed him the phone:
“And that’s the farthest, these days, that you go?”


When I was seventeen, romantic love,
By dint of sheer improbability,
Arrested all my thinking constantly—
We crave most what we simply cannot have.
Today it’s quite a struggle to believe
That naive kid could ever have been me:
In hindsight, it’s not difficult to see
Infatuation dogged my every move.
Now in my later fifties, I concede,
Albeit, I confess, with some reluctance,
Most things in life are doomed to disappoint.
In damp cathedrals where the icons bleed,
No one accepts your visions or your penance;
It hardly matters which king you anoint.


My father’s ashes, in a velvet box,
Earned a last resting place in Mom’s hall closet;
And if so casual an interment shocks,
It suits the grand oblivion I posit—
Which still encompasses, I must admit,
My wife’s remains, dispersed one winter dawn:
A weightless powder momentarily lit,
Wafted above the Golden Gate, then gone.
The dead are dead; the living stumble on
Shackled to flesh for all too brief a span;
Born one part angel, one part carrion,
We struggle to contribute what we can.
Having relinquished breath, one finds oneself
Packaged, discarded on a darkened shelf.

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. He has recently begun work on an new collection of sonnets—his second foray into the form—which will hopefully be published by Full Court Press at the end of the year.

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