Two Poems

ORACLES

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,

descend.

 

 

 

HOME FRONT

She hates

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?

Her mother

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

like whiskey.

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.

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