“Think as a mortal.” “Benefit yourself.” “Grieve for nobody.”
Gone, even the singing fountain, here
between the goat carcass
and the olive stump. We
brought our questions here
where there is no one,
of course, to answer them. Don’t think
we’re surprised. Death doesn’t
deny us, but Death, that trickster, has
come and gone. And nobody knows
we’re here, right here
in our aching, in our ragged
breathing after the climb. Fibrillation,
failure sustain us, and for that we are
grateful. We hear no
cries of dying, of orgasm, no
cicadas even, hardly a windwhisper, though
it’s true we’re no great shakes
as auditors anymore.
I think we’re ready.
So, why, my love, are you combing
your hair? The blank sky doesn’t care
what you look like. It never knew
your beauty, and it will not bend.
I will, though. I did. Kiss me one more time,
after all these years.
Kiss me. Then,
we will, leaning together, groaning together,
Savannah, hates her mother’s
unshakable strength, hates
that boy who sends her postcards:
KEEP USA OUT OF WAR.
Lindberg, she heard a man say, a woman say,
was a great man, was a traitor.
When the front page screamed WAR!
even she was scared
for a couple of days.
Japs killed 3,000 Americans.
Where? And what were Americans
doing over there?
wheezed, boiling corn.
Broughton Street had a scarecrow wearing a button:
KICK ‘EM IN THE AXIS!
People’re getting bad, her mother frowned,
war’s making them mean and low.
She liked the big button
on her father’s torn coat when
he leaned into the room,
a black badge with red letters:
TO HELL WITH HITLER.
She loved Daddy’s crooked smile, but Mother
made him leave again because he smelled
She saw Santa on a poster
squeezing the air out of Adolph, stomping
with one boot a bald Mussolini.
Would she get anything
she wanted this year?
Saturday Evening Post showed a boy her age
holding a black comb to his upper lip,
his other fingers shaped into a gun
at his own temple. None of her brothers thought
it was funny. Hitler-boy
had the happiest eyes!
Nothing ever makes sense.
Nevertheless, seventeen, my father will leave the farm,
will somehow survive Guadalcanal,
somehow find this girl in Savannah
plugging wires into a board,
and, eventually, somehow, they will
make this poem.
Ron Smith’s book The Humility of the Brutes has just been published by Louisiana State University Press. His books Its Ghostly Workshop and Moon Road were also issued by LSU Press. Smith is also the author of Running Again in Hollywood Cemetery, runner-up for the National Poetry Series Open Competition (judged by Margaret Atwood) and the Samuel French Morse Prize (judged by Donald Hall) and subsequently published by University Presses of Florida. His poems have appeared in many periodicals including The Kenyon Review, The Georgia Review, The Nation, and Blackbird, and in anthologies published in the U.S., Canada, England, Scotland, and Italy. From 2014 to 2016 he was the Poet Laureate of Virginia. He is Writer-in-Residence at St. Christopher’s School.