Bruce Smith

November 19, 2019 Smith Bruce


Feral children leave the inside screens

to mime the screens outside, they rule

a world slightly outside, slightly inside this one

where they’re zealots, martyrs,

spies, slight climate kids in the state of Whoa –

twitch pivot point– a dance that’s the panic

of captives let out or a syndrome you want to know

if it’s the wind makes them different unstrung

puppets, makes their skin shivery if it’s the wind

makes them more or less afflicted in their want

to move and ruin stuff musically what

currency what fraction what reckoning

of the illuminated creatures under what gusts

of favor what gusts of catastrophe to be

the kids have knock offs of likenesses of dead

ringers of guns they point and squeeze

long liquid arcs from they have in mind

machines men use and foes

and echoes, smoke, rarefactions, valves open

and shut, absences as in truancies,

vacancies, vacuums, ghosts, where are the folks

you want to know the body beside itself

here and elsewhere in the city the wind obliterates

the space between the south side and the near

east side, self-storage, overpass, bus station

name one that isn’t a windless end

of times, hasn’t been made of wind by wind

and wind made by variance of have

and have not, pressure and absence sway and size

of the aperture you see kids being feral

kids through whose fur gets matted by cool

streams from the liquidators. Is it real or not

you and the law want to know when its drawn

force or not, heat or not, kids

in their ecstatic packs before wind breaks them

into ones you take aside and give

the talking to about skin and color and power

You want a story with a cool arc

and a swerve, a man strapped or stopped as a reprimand

a merciful, forgiving man, a woman

kids swarm under the street light, flapping

their wings then zombie walking

with loaded guns aimed at other brilliant

others rationing crackers from a box

fingering their automatic weapons.

Bruce Smith was born and raised in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He is the author of six books of poems: The Common Wages; Silver and Information (National Poetry Series, selected by Hayden Carruth); Mercy Seat; The Other Lover (University of Chicago), which was a finalist for both the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize; Songs for Two Voices (Chicago, 2005); and most recently, Devotions, a finalist for the National Book Award, the National Book Critics Circle Award, and the Los Angeles Times Book Award, and winner of the William Carlos Williams Prize. He teaches at Syracuse University.