Ron Smith

February 14, 2012 Smith Ron



Dr. Clark ordered daisies

for his patient’s grave. Easeful death,

my ass, he might have muttered

if he had been you or me.

Violets grow on Monte Testaccio, on the testae.

You can see them from that corner


the Church reserves for the Acattolici.

Across town, insolvent Severn

scrapes the flowered paper off,

weeping for our losses. Yes, pile

the furniture and sheets in the piazza

and torch it all.


When a workman begins to sing

a jaunty song, Severn throws down his scraper,

hurries out to stand by the fire, by the fountain.

He will live to see Italy united,

his amiable mediocrity rewarded,

artistic, diplomatic, altruistic. Tomorrow,

he will surprise himself, yowling at Anna


and smashing her crockery in ecstasy.

For now, he stands between the fountain and the flame,

watching the bright tongues at work, thinking

of Dr. Clark’s purgatives,

of the cypresses across town

between a displaced pyramid and a shattered empire,

of Hector crackling on the plain of Troy.


                                                                         for Mason Bates


Ron Smith, Poet Laureate of Virginia 2014–2016, is the author of four books, including Its Ghostly Workshop, and The Humility of the Brutes, both from LSU Press. In 2020, his Running Again in Hollywood Cemetery appeared in a handsome new edition. His poems have appeared in The Nation, Georgia  Review, Kenyon Review, and many other periodicals and anthologies in North America and Europe. The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts commissioned him to write poems for its 2018 exhibition “The Horse in Ancient Greek Art.”