Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Robert Lavett Smith- Three Poems


     “O, que j’aime la solitude!”
          —Marc-Antoine Girard de Saint-Amant (1594-1661)

One Marc-Antoine Girard de Saint-Amant
Praised places he called “sacred to the night,”
Far from the city’s stale, degraded light:
Festering marshlands, ruined battlements.
I know the holy quietude he meant;
Enraptured by his lines, I tried to write
An eloquent adieu to all things bright,
But I was much too young, my time misspent.
I haven’t learned to love my solitude.
The dull dead throng around me every day:
I know the scent of almonds they exude,
The gentle resignation of decay.
I know they come to comfort, not to brood—
I also know they haven’t come to stay.


Dad’s fatherly advice was always wrong.
Raised on a dairy farm in New York State,
He never managed to anticipate
Trouble, hocking his horse sense for a song.
The safest bet was just to play along—
His harebrained schemes weren’t open to debate,
And I learned early not to take the bait:
Decades of stifled laughter make one strong.
I had to draw the line at his insistence,
When I was struggling as a book store clerk,
I sacrifice my weekend on the chance
The boss was grateful for my unpaid work—
A doubtful move in any circumstance.
I loved my Dad, but he could be a jerk.


The throats of muted trumpets do not fail,
No hesitation mars their silver voices;
The singer’s instrument has faced hard choices:
These last eroded notes are cracked and pale.
The orchestra’s quixotic clarity
Sounds brighter now that ever in the forties—
And yet the croon that loved to tempt and tease
Seems ragged, strained, and frankly, elderly.
Though something of his swagger may endure,
This music, set aside for twenty years,
Surprises: unexpectedly one hears
Discordances not evident before.
It seems a lifetime since The Voice fell dumb;
No one believes the best is yet to come.

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.

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