Thursday, October 15, 2015

Robert Lavett Smith- Three Poems


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

Ten years ago we gave her flesh to flame.
Last night in dreams she came to me, as bald
As when the surgeons cut away her skull,
A corpse beyond all reach of praise or blame.
She was—and yet she wasn’t—quite the same;
Her features were as still as I recalled
They had been on her death bed, and as cold,
But now this shell no longer had a name.
And in the burdened dark between us there
She kept repeating, in the voice I knew,
I’d shaved her head and auctioned off her hair
The way the old slave traders used to do.
Although the accusation seemed unfair,
Some part of me suspected it was true.


         i.m.: Dr. C. Lavett Smith, 1927-2015

These are the first months of my father’s death.
In Colorado, where he passed away,
The mountains have gone golden with decay;
New snows enclose the summits like a sheath.
Let any elegy we make be brief:
We have already said all one should say,
And with the passing of each shrunken day
We grow accustomed to our disbelief.
Abruptly, the autumnal equinox,
When light and darkness reach a stalemate:
And the ash that was his body in a box,
Nothing to argue or negotiate.
Tear down the calendar and stop the clocks?
Meaningless gestures—futile, and too late.


         For Jennifer E. Whitten’s birthday, September 18, 2015

As we grow older, so our roots grow deeper:
Like steadfast trees accustomed to strong wind
We come to trust the ground we’re planted in,
The way a dream must learn to trust the sleeper.
Not every summer evening is a “keeper”:
Consulting cloudless midnight skies we find
Familiar constellations realigned,
Our fortunes other than we hoped they were.
And yet, the leaves reciting overhead
Know the redemptive strength of poetry—
We relish their green cadences instead
Of stones and sorrows stirring restlessly.
Fireflies frolic on the road ahead;
We are already where we need to be.

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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