Ron Smith

August 3rd
January 24, 2024 Smith Ron

August 3rd


After twenty horrific minutes, I think she
is trying to tell me to put on her shoes. I
put on her shoes, laying the Velcro firmly into
the mesh of the Velcro.
If you had pointed
to your feet, I say, I would have known.
I did! I did! she shrieks but does not say. No,
I say, you were pointing to your legs, keeping
it simple, not saying thighs. I demonstrate,
slapping both my thighs fiercely, with her
ferocity, enjoying the sharp sting. No! she
actually says, shaking her head, flinging
the tears from her eyes. No! Yes, I say, you
kept indicating your legs, not keeping it so
simple, saying, gesturing.
Whatever you say!
she wails, Whatever you say! she wails again,
not saying. But I know what I did! It’s hard
enough already! But when I do point to my feet
and you don’t see it, when I do get it right and
you don’t understand, I can’t stand it, I can’t
breathe, I can’t live!
I am kneeling before her.
I put my hands on her knees. I’m doing
the best I can, I say, but you need to help me.
I am helping you, I did help you, she isn’t saying,
she is so furiously not saying. Yes, here is a word,
there is a word, but there is no consistency, just
as there is none with the pointing, the gesturing,
no consistency from day to day, from hour
to hour. Goddamnit! she says, does in fact say,
something she has never said in her life till now.
Goddamnit! she says again, those syllables just
three of thirty, but bullets that hit the mind’s
waiting target out of dozens that hit only
the forest of my raw nerves. We both turn
our heads when we hear the horn.
I walk her
through the dark garage to the van. The boy
is smiling again today. He is a year younger
than he was yesterday. Her face is indecent
in the sunlight, the way it sags. How are you?
he says and she smiles like a shy girl, Never
better, she says and does not, cannot say. I
wave as they back away down the driveway.
Her eyes do not accuse me now. Her eyes
are kind, soft, even amused. I wave and she
waves back, smiling with a serenity that is worse
than any curse, a smile that makes me weep.


Ron Smith’s book That Beauty in the Trees was published in 2023 by Louisiana State University Press. His The Humility of the Brutes, Its Ghostly Workshop, and Moon Road were also published by LSU. 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 Consultant in Poetry and Prose at St. Christopher’s School in Richmond, Virginia, and Poetry Editor for Aethlon: The Journal of Sport Literature. In recent years he has partnered with the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts to present poems associated with Man Ray’s Paris years and its “The Horse in Ancient Greek Art” exhibit. From 2014 to 2016 Smith was the Poet Laureate of Virginia.