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 sometime this year.
FARTHER FROM BELIEVING
i.m. Keith Emerson, keyboardist, 1944-2016
Progressive Rock was really not my thing
But all my friends were quick to let me know,
Those summers home from college long ago,
They felt the folk songs I preferred were boring.
Keith Emerson could play; Greg Lake could sing—
I had to give them that much, even though
Their pompous virtuosity seemed hollow
To a green kid who doubted everything.
I liked to think flamboyancy lacked soul;
Forty years later, I’m not quite so sure.
Now that Keith’s gone, his death has left a hole
Inside me, where the Seventies once were.
Missing majestic music after all,
I’m farther from believing than before.
DR. EINSTEIN LISTENS TO BARBECUE BOB’S
“MISSISSIPPI HEAVY WATER BLUES”
for Christopher Watkins
Late nights, he sets aside his violin,
Relaxes—as a rule—to classical.
Quite honestly, he simply can’t recall
Who gave him this old acetate, or when.
The needle drops and the blue notes begin.
It’s nothing he’s familiar with at all:
Like stillness deepening before a squall,
That brooding instant a hard rain blows in.
“The Mississippi Heavy Water Blues,”
Grimly coincidental name aside,
Gives the professor nothing he can use;
He still prefers deuterium oxide.
In what weird universe will he cut loose,
Put down his rosined bow, take up the slide?
AQUARELLE FOR A WINTER DAWN
Daybreak: umbrellas bloom along the street
Like sodden parodies of calla lilies,
Mournful black blossoms fated to repeat
To an indifferent wind their mute entreaties.
Georgia O’Keefe might well have painted these
Bouquets of storm-torn fabric, Frieda Kahlo
Would not, I’m sure, have been afraid to seize
Garlands her heart abandoned years ago.
Whatever scraps of rumor rain may blow
Into the flooded tableau of the morning,
Halfhearted salutations all sound hollow
Against a gaggle of umbrellas yawning,
Each one a wet, ribbed echo of the high
Featureless dome of unrelenting sky.