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’s book That Beauty in the Trees is forthcoming from Louisiana State University Press. His The Humility of the Brutes, Its Ghostly Workshop, and Moon Road were also published by LSU Press. Smith’s poems have appeared in many periodicals, including The Nation, Kenyon Review, Georgia Review, Five Points, and Arts of War & Peace (Université Paris Diderot). He is currently Writer-in-Residence at St. Christopher’s School in Richmond, Virginia, and Poetry Editor for Aethlon: The Journal of Sport Literature. From 2014 to 2016 Smith was the Poet Laureate of Virginia. In 2021-2022, he partnered with the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts to present poems associated with Man Ray’s Paris years.