I hitchhiked through Harrisburg once: night and some light dislocating,
deranging the river and a highway which was a country road or an artifact
of a market or a Cornell box and I got picked up between sobs and the wish
for a self to be conveyed and to be contingent [and I was white] and the trip
was windows filled and filled again with flight begun in rain, then begun again.
A self beyond herself singed by the stars, fundamentally
firmamentally hazy, muzzy, unreadable, stylishly doing the same as
everybody, stylishly self-justifying the stroke, the smoke, the childish
itch to outscratch the family, as if that story could account for
anything [gold, wind, water, fire] in its desire to be unforgettable.
Not the violent deaths that follow you around [if you were black] but the slow
white deaths, the time-released deaths like insulin or atoms released in slow
explosions like microscopic pollen, planets of spiked bother, a ball tethered to a pole
swung by no one: no one is a smooth eye-ball, an aperture in the camera, that sees
things reversed, or sees the edited footage, or doesn’t see
[the body cut from the tree]
Bruce Smith is the author of six books of poems, The Common Wages, Silver and Information(National Poetry Series, selected by Hayden Carruth), Mercy Seat, The Other Lover (University of Chicago), which was a finalist for both the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize, Songs for Two Voices, and most recently Devotions, a finalist for the National Book Award, the National Book Critics Circle Award, and the LA Times Book Prize. He received the 2012 William Carlos Williams Award. His work has appeared in The New Yorker, The Nation, The New Republic, The Paris Review, The Partisan Review, Poetry, The American Poetry Review, and many others. New essays of his appear in The Los Angeles Review of Books and Five Points. He teaches at Syracuse University.