I BET YOU’D HATE THIS POEM
i.m.: Franz Wright, 1953-2015
I bet you’d hate the fact this is a sonnet,
Preferring jagged lines imbued with silence,
Words that don’t hesitate to do us violence
And won’t play all the cards they hold just yet.
Forget about a strict pentameter,
A bland anachronism with no future—
Better the lyricism of a suture,
The studied elegance of a skull fracture,
The horrid beauty of a stifled cry
That resonates with stunned and speechless pain.
Beyond the pillaged corn at dusk, warm rain
Spits broken lightning from a hemorrhaged sky;
A few cold stars try stubbornly to rise,
The new moon like a coin for your dead eyes.
THE FIRST DAY OF B. B.’S DEATH
i.m.: Riley Ben “B. B.” King, September 16, 1925-May 14, 2015
This morning, after Riley passed away,
Rain gentled San Francisco like damp smoke;
Blues filled the Internet, and no one spoke—
The light dissolved in gradients of gray.
Up at Fort Mason, where we heard him play,
Some sullen trees are doing their slow soak;
It’s years now since the Festival went broke—
Nothing remains of the great stage today.
If this were a performance, not a poem,
A liquid solo would begin right here,
Honed like a dagger, weightless as a breath.
Called from the nether regions where they roam
Revered guitarists of the past draw near:
Today is the first day of B. B.’s death.
THE TORNADO OF NINETEEN SIXTY-FIVE
The funnel missed the house by only yards,
Stripping the Spitzers’ northern wall away
So that, my Grandpa Maple used to say,
It left a doll house, or a house of cards.
There are dark images the mind discards,
But though I wasn’t present, I still see
With almost preternatural clarity
The devastation conjured by his words.
This was in April, all the trees in leaf,
But plaster billowed to the ground below
Like some strange winter, hideous and brief,
Burying lawns in false, deceitful snow—
The neighborhood looked on in disbelief
That terrible morning, many years ago.
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 is entitled Sturgeon Moon, and which will hopefully be published by Full Court Press at the end of the year.