Hermits! My daughter walks near you again,
forsaking my hand. This summer, we look
and step so carefully, out of fear
and love. She says the sea is kind
to reveal this run of beach between groins,
these trinkets thrown in tidal pools
we’d carry in a pail to show the others,
if we had one. She has regard
for the sea, regards it as a woman,
because she is human and she is frail
and free. We pity the funny mole crabs
that aren’t shoveled into pails. We mourn
the little clams that stud the sand
or re-enter the sea, and frown at the riot
of the sporting birds, delighted
by architects and entrepreneurs
whose slow beauty is a byproduct
of inner growth and for whom growth
is tantamount to virtue. We prefer them
to those other unplanned works the waves
distribute, prefer them because we may
touch them and because they’re testament
not elegy, elegy not objects of grief.
That the world is only almost
predictable must vex God, in whom
I believe today, now, this moment.
My daughter believes in God as she believes
in Death. She is young, so rarely sees
the moon in its glory, only that exiting
palimpsest of a moon in front of us.
She slips into sleep soundly now, so
doesn’t start at our every snorted word.
Across the water and opposite
the renovated cabins lurks
the ancient lumberjack
the locals swear they’ve seen, working
simply to support his habit.
September’s easy twang and strum
sets a sexy mood, feeding
a minor feast of innuendo
that leads to early swims in the nude.
As if to prove that the least of us
is past saving, the four-star guard
brought his brother, a nature lover
who knows better, but discovers himself
admiring some rare specimen
away from the safety of the trail.
(Already a blond’s gone missing.)
Yet must every chase end in this
slow-motion crawl, in which the hurt killer
tries to trim her lead, but the strange trees
he’s been chopping are fated to fall,
leaving the starlet to rise
slowly to her feet and heave to town
alone? And is the story now said
and done or (Gasp!) still incomplete?
They found him–funny, young–under
a gutter and soon grew to love him.
Suppose she cared for him first, lying
near his box until he got strong
and so aloof she saw it was time
to set him loose. Twenty days
went by before he returned. They swore
he would not remember her, but
she came out anyway.
He sniffed and ran to where she stood
and where she stayed until
they took him into deeper woods…
You will never fly.
The second smallest live thing
that this rubbed eye has seen…
Gossip-common. Cartoonish. Fresh dirt
torn from the not-news news: more
stranded motorists (shoe-eaters who survive
the sudden snowstorm) or early retirees–
the lottery winners, ex-machinists
and their furred wives shown trading it all
for stacked maps, her Winnebago
and that char-less grill, wedded to the plan
of getting lost, of just BEING, since
it’s always a hairy time to be alive.
Wintering, then summering, springing
and, last, falling (but not, never, flying),
an average scattershot small family–
happy mother and father whose kids
(padded, hammocked out of reach)
soon, so soon, stir…
And there’s the dry
that you do not flee, and there’s the wet season
that you do not fear, harp of water, stream
Perplexing how you’re still with us…
Resistant, persistent as an idea or the hope
of afterlife lobbed in the human heart,
we’ve trophied so many harder heads
that bore you.
But to find
you, we must
remember, when we see you, to pause,
to breathe, because, most times,
we’ve spotted something else.
Knowing your place, do you itch
to teach us ours?
We know it already.
There’s nothing beneath you like us.
Mike Smith’s first book, How to Make a Mummy, was published in May of 2008. His second, Multiverse, in which the three poems here are included, is forthcoming from BlazeVOX books this winter. He has published, also, three chapbooks, including Anagrams of America, which is permanently archived at Mudlark: Electronic Journal of Poetry and Poetics. He has had poems appear in the Carolina Quarterly, Gulf Stream, The Iowa Review, The North American Review, and The Notre Dame Review.
“The front porch most prominent in my memory is that of my great-grandparents. The front porch, which was deep and long and, like the rest of the bungalow built by them, irregularly and eccentrically lined, spanned the front of the house. It was where we children were sent to play while meals were prepared or certain conversations were had. We weren’t alone. My great-grandfather, who managed to outlive every other North Carolina World War I veteran but one, would be out there already, his gallon of tea sunning beside his chair, chatting with a neighbor or son-in-law or grand-son-in-law. But it’s the smell, slightly acrid of the shrubs surrounding the porch that stays with me. Each time I encounter that scent, I am reminded of how much more growing up I need to do. Though, these days, I await my maturity much more patiently.”
Author’s Note: The poems included here are part of a larger project of twenty-four poems called Multiverse: A Bestiary, in which all the poems are anagrams of one another. The letters of one poem have been rearranged to write each of the other poems. No letters have been added and no letters have been left out. Titles, sections numbers, and section titles are not to be considered parts of the anagrams.