Circling Back


by Mike Smetzer



A long road under thunder.

Deer alert among cattle.
A fox sidling through clear-cut.

Then white clouds shadowing corn.
The grassy in-road through fields.

Cracked melons on the porch.
Toadstools rotting by the barn.


Circling back, and back.

A hike through mud under snow.
Then the steep path of loose stones.

A patch of wintering rye.
A window watched only in memory.

New dogs growling at the gate.
Loud, strange voices from the barn.


(first published in Off the Coast, Winter 2014)


I very much enjoyed reading the winter issue of Off the Coast literary magazine, which came out in February. It is a very good issue overall. A few of the poems are available at the link above as selected work. Of those not available online, I especially liked

“Normal” by Andy Macera. A poem about the aberrations of the narrator’s family that takes a personal twist at the end.

“The Last Days of the Balkh Bastan” by M. E. Silverman. A striking portrait of an old Jewish man in Kabul who cannot leave the place of a way of life now lost.

“At the Checkpoint in Bethlehem” by Tara Ballard. Tara places the reader with great immediacy in the experience of fear and powerlessness of those passing through the autocratic and hair-triggered guards at the checkpoint. Overtones of the decisions Nazi guards made about those arriving at concentration camps.

“The Grandmothers” by Mary Ann Larkin. A brief but powerful, mythic image of the relationship of grandmothers and children. Very tribal.

“Me and Mick” by Ben Weinberg. The story of two fishermen, of failure, loss, and a comradeship that fell painfully short. I love the way this poem tells just enough and suggests the rest.


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