week of November 26 - December 2, 2001
Kent D. Smith
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I live in Somerset, CA, where I&Mac226;m a volunteer search-and-rescue dog handler and also help my husband (a retired wildlife biologist) with his bird projects. My poetry is forthcoming in The Iowa Review, Poetry International and others. My latest collection, An Hour in the Cougar's Grace, received a Pipistrelle Best of the Small Press Award.
The following work is Copyright © 2001, and owned by Taylor Graham and may not be distributed or reprinted in any form whatsover without written permission from the author.
Somewhere up ahead must be a wreck.
The flashers slowed us down, and
now we're creeping on our treads,
three lanes abreast, exchanging
vehicle exhaust in August swelter.
In the slow lane a woman droops
against her dashboard, lets her
pedal-foot subside. And I've
crept up beside a blaze-red
Peterbilt that's hauling placard-
numbered hazards in its mirrored
tanks. I let it slip on by.
A man in a faded Pinto, ponytail
and tattoo hangs his arm limp
out the window. One lane moves
ahead, another drags and then
we all change paces, shift down,
slow and brake, and listen
as our radios swap country talk-
show rock the latest breaking
news. We're wondering where
the wreck is and how bad. We're
wondering whose lane it's in.
But none of us can see
that far ahead.
The Queen of Cuisine
She wraps herself in pastry
that tans its shoulders
to a secret flame, her crown
of brandied oranges in ancestral
sauce. She was born, of course,
to silver spoons, to a royal
flush. The queen of cooking
leaves us simple feeders
famished. We've gnawed our
lives away, we've consumed
Snowshoe Thompson's Last Trek
What are snowed-in Sierra passes
to a Norwegian on two long skinny-sticks?
What are crevasses clogged with storm,
or wolf hordes to a man who can out-howl
The East is breathless to hear from every
poor Johnny gone to gold. Hangtown
to Genoa, the mail must get through.
But solitary and patient, a man can go
only so long without pay. Twenty years,
and finally Congress acts: "The check
is in the mail."
Snowshoe waits; then, one last time,
he straps on his skies, shoulders the old
worn pack full of a whole fresh set
of Western news.
Oh, his aging joints on the long
ascent. He stops to nap,
perhaps he dreams.
On Echo Summit the wind is at his back.
He opens up his sack and sends
all those letters air-mail.
Mary, How We Ate Your Gift
Today we hiked the Schneider trail
through half a dozen shades of paintbrush,
corn lily, lupine and cow parsnip,
past running water where our dogs begged time
to drink. White-crowned sparrows in the willows
piped our presence. A flight of tiny birds
too quick to name
launched from a dry-rock slope
where mules-ear blossomed yellow and chest-high.
Our dogs disappeared in wildflowers
and mountain scent.
The old pack trail rose toward 9000 feet
where a grandfather pine with rich red hide
gave shade, excuse enough to pause for breath.
One rufus hummer buzzed a field
of scarlet bugles. And then the trail back down,
with forget-me-nots collecting in our socks,
and farewell caws of nutcrackers,
and cumulus building thunder-bellies
over the summits.
At last beside untrampled meadow, we spread
our lunch to eat your gift
without a single birthday candle: focaccia
plumped and brown, wound
with olive oil and rosemary, golden-crowned
with cheese. Like our dogs,
we drank your health in mountain water,
and left these few crumbs for jays
and juncos, who live their seasons
among such meadows without ever
Road to Fleming Mine
They drove up in a truck he must have dredged
out of mud and ruts and refuse of a landing
at the end of a logging road long since put to bed.
I'd swear the dog was driving. Stuck his head
out first, black ears cocked. The man
was shaggier, bestowed with speech. "Great
country," which I took to mean "Good mornin&Mac226;"
or maybe "Wha'cha doin&Mac226; way out here?" As if
he'd never seen a walker with no plans to stay.
Tipped his head the other side, where a profile
riding shotgun let a slack strand of hair
obscure her eyes. "Great country," he observed
in my direction, which I took to mean "keep
movin.&Mac226;" Then he was boot-sole to the gas,
the dog's nose decoding breezes.
What the lady thought about it
Home for Christmas
Ring the bell, the knocker's dumb
with crimson bows like crinkly
angels. Outside smiles and inside
laughter, you'd swear the air smacks
a guilty melt of butter to the tongue,
an after-taste of anise, caraway,
pecan. You've been away too long.
Inside laughter and snow outside,
or is it the other way around?
Remember everything you've managed
to omit, or else do wrong. Upstairs,
Mom has rearranged the shelves,
the drawers, she's found old
journals with scratched-out scrawls,
and downstairs, upstairs, smells
that pace the passages you've walked,
and gone and come again. Inside
smiles and outside all the snow-
fights you've outgrown, a frosty
sting of nostrils, smell of burning
oak or letters in the stove.
A holiday's a downhill run. Your
bags are heavier, and lighter
with the things undone. Then bells
unring themselves, a front door opens
in reverse, outside cold and inside
laughter, which is which, you wonder
that you've ever come.
Kent D. Smith
Kent D. Smith, Jr. was born on September 25, 1982. He hails from Indianapolis, IN and is presently attending Indiana University in pursuit of a degree in English and a degree in history.
The following work is Copyright © 2001, and owned by Kent D. Smith and may not be distributed or reprinted in any form whatsover without written permission from the author.
6 a.m. (conversations)
you're better than lillies,
which neither care
i imagine things like so:
your cold sheets,
your warm hands
it's a myth i smile over,
like sorry Sisyphis
trudging his hill
his lonely boulder
but you're better than myths,
which have never
smelled quite right.
more like damp
or the pavement
on mornings when
you're not sure
how you got
to where you are,
more like stale perfume
in crowded rooms
i know your kind of smell:
the type one must close
his eyes for,
must hold in
letting it trail over
so he can get the very taste
the very pollen of you stains
and my words are bees
making honey of you.
i only pray that they won't sting.
and this is how i heard myself:
body clenching, relaxing,
folding over like a violent fist
to the rustle of clothing.
the breath shudders
rip me away. suddenly,
i'm onion unfolding in your palms,
layers dropping to the counter
while the whispers grow louder.
old ladies over bridge
shuffle cards to our sin.
they do not blush enough, i think,
to cover the fact
that their envy
is as familiar as your dress
to my floor.