Archive for the ‘Photography,’ Category

Salamanders

August 20, 2017

 

When I was twelve I caught a spotted salamander
      in the yard
and took him in a jar to school.
When I appeared with him in science class,
the teacher stood above me at a loss.
“Why did you bring it here?  We’ve all seen
      salamanders.”
This hadn’t occurred to me.
Because it delighted me to have caught him,
I brought him.

 

First published in Cottonwood (formerly Cottonwood Review).

 

Discussion

I find one of the best ways to deal with the memory of an embarrassing or painful experience, is to write it into a poem. I have a lot of poems.

Below is a photo of my older sister Rose. As a teenager, Rosalee told my little sister and me that she had arrived on a space ship, which seemed about right to us. However, it appears she actually rode into our parents’ lives on a horse.

 

Rosalee Smetzer on a horse

Rosalee Smetzer on a horse

Rose and Granddad Smetzer

Rose and Granddad Smetzer

Bernie and Rosalee Smetzer

Dad and Rose

Mike, Rose and Jean Smetzer

Mike, Rose and Jean

Advertisements

That’s All There Is

August 13, 2017

 

A row of fence posts
down the road.
You don’t see the man
who dug the holes
and planted the posts
and stretched the wire.
You don’t see him.
You just see posts going by
and the wire
and off in the distance
the sky.

 

First published in West Branch.

 

Minimalism in Writing and Art

Minimalism in writing and art focuses on a few key details and gives them a straightforward presentation. Such work is simple, stark and yet resonant, often implying more than is described or shown. Minimalism is rich, but not like a kaleidoscope is rich. It is rich in its simplicity, like the color of a gemstone or the light a single firefly in the night.

 

Bridge Superstructure - detail from photo by Vera Lisa Smetzer

Bridge Lines – photo by Vera Lisa Smetzer

A Kansas Anthem

August 6, 2017

 

The wind and dust blew up the hill,
        the dust from the wind fell down.
And I awoke on the windless side
        all clothed in a fine dust gown.

“Oh see,” said I to a passerby,
        “my suit of Kansas Gray.
Come feel the loft of the down so soft
        our sky has thrown away.”

“I swear,” swore he, “by a cottonwood tree
        run through with a fencing foil,
your Kansas dust smells sharp as rust
        and feels like tractor oil.

“I’ve been to Maine and I’ve been to Spain
        and filled my sight with riches,
but my eyes are filled in Kansas land
        by dirt blown out of ditches.”

Oh hey hum hey for a Kansas day
        when the sky is gray and swirly.
Oh naw de naw for the gritty jaw
        that turns bright strangers surly.

 

First published in Midwest Quarterly.

 

Discussion

I wrote this poem after a small dust storm blew through Lawrence, Kansas. In eastern Kansas it was a rare event and also a wonderful reminder of the nature of the land where we lived.

After centuries of use, the ballad stanza remains a wonderful asset for the poet, especially when the poem has an element of humor. Meter and rhyme are natural choices for those who want to dance with language and life. They contain a magic formula for joy more powerful than any happy pill.

While meter and rhyme work less well in serious poetry today, poetic rhythms (as opposed to meter) and subtle rhymes can create beauty and enhance significance, even for readers accustomed to prose.

But as they sing in the theater, “Tragedy tomorrow, Comedy tonight!”

 

Bernie Smetzer and the chickens

Dad with his Chickens

 

Bernie Smetzer and the chickens 2

Dad and the chickens

Bernie Smetzer reins in the chicken

Dad reins in the chicken

Tequila / Pulque

August 4, 2017

 

Agave worm in my bottle,
you’re la crema de los gusanos.
Ebony knob on a divinity stick.
Who could swallow a prettier fellow?

But tell me, farm-raised worm,
what have you to do with Tequila?
With wild agave drained to death
by sweaty men in a desert, its juice

distilled for bandits to heat themselves
before stopping the bus from the border?
Hey, perfect worm, you look
gringo clean tonight!

Give me a sour glass of pulque,
where a real worm might be,
mottled and smashed, cut to bits –
a worm of the people.

Pass him round in a bottle
born of broken bottles.
¡Salud! to the approaching lights –
el autobús de los turistas.

 

First published in Cottonwood (formerly Cottonwood Review).

 

"Panificadora Sambo," Nogales, Mexico, circa 1959 - photo probably by Bernie Smetzer

“Panificadora Sambo,” Nogales, Mexico, circa 1959 – photo probably by Bernie Smetzer